Deputies Show Berezovsky Film

Original Link: 
http://www.themoscowtimes.com/stories/2002/03/13/012.html

By Andrei Zolotov Jr.
Staff Writer

The Liberal Russia movement presented the much talked-about documentary film alleging FSB involvement in the 1999 apartment blasts to a packed audience of journalists, human rights activists and curious truth-seekers at the Sakharov Museum on Tuesday.

Members of the Boris Berezovsky-backed movement said their aim was to persuade the government to open a public investigation into the explosions, which killed more than 300.

"The main merit of the film is that it again raises the questions that have already been raised but are still unanswered," State Duma Deputy Sergei Yushenkov, one of the co-chairmen of Liberal Russia, said at the presentation.

"We still don't know who blew up the houses," he said. "We are not passing a verdict. We are demanding one thing -- an investigation."

The film, produced by little-known French company Transparence Production, was partly funded by Berezovsky after first NTV and then TV6 bailed out.

A nine-minute version of the film was presented by Berezovsky in London on March 5.

The 42-minute film, shown in its entirety Tuesday on a dim video screen, is based largely on footage from NTV's "Independent Investigation" show, which explores the Sept. 22, 1999, incident in Ryazan in which police said they found three sacks containing explosives and a detonator in the basement of an apartment building. Two days later, Nikolai Patrushev, the head of the Federal Security Service, or FSB, declared that the sacks had contained sugar and were part of a counterterrorism drill.

The film, which is titled "Assassination of Russia" and tries to make its case with circumstantial evidence at best, pieces together interviews with Ryazan police and residents, contradictory official statements about the incident and commentary from emigre historian Yury Felshtinsky, who together with former FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko -- whom Berezovsky helped flee Russia -- co-authored an unpublished book about the FSB's cooperation with criminal gangs.

Footage flashes from a bombed-out apartment building to Ryazan, then to a Moscow studio and President Vladimir Putin's inauguration. A narrator -- speaking in the deep-voiced, trustworthy-sounding tones of a Soviet propagandistic documentary -- solemnly states that the apartment blasts triggered the second Chechnya campaign, which, in turn, propelled Putin to the presidency.

The film makes a point of stressing that Patrushev called the incident a drill just when Ryazan police said they were on the verge of arresting the culprits.

"Since Patrushev himself declared the failed terrorist act to be a drill, this unquestionably points to the fact that the terrorist act had been prepared with Patrushev's knowledge," Felshtinsky says.

Former Novaya Gazeta reporter Pavel Voloshin said in the film that the documentary's crew had been threatened in Ryazan last year by unidentified people in plainclothes and that one man who had promised to assist the reporters had changed his mind after the FSB planted heroin in his pocket and threatened to open an investigation if he met with the reporters again.

Liberal Russia, which owns the rights for the Russian version of the film, distributed videotape copies at the presentation and reiterated an offer to provide a copy to any television channel willing to show it.

The FSB has called the film's allegations unfounded.
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