10 years since the apartment bombings – 10 years of official disinformation


The tragic events of September 1999 in Buynavsk, Moscow and Volgodonsk, linked with open terror and civilian victims marked the beginning of a new phase for our country, living under permanent terrorist threat. Up till then Russia had not experienced terrorist acts on such a scale.

The September terrorist acts were virtually the grounds for the beginning of the Second Chechen War. The course of events linked with this created the conditions for an enforcement body oligarchy to effectively come to power in Russia, and for the curtailing of many civil and political liberties and a move away from the democratic foundations of the constitutional system.

Violence in Chechnya, as human rights defenders warned, is as a result spreading throughout the entire Caucuses region and causing the radicalization and religious self-identification of armed opposition to the federal and local authorities.

 “Managed” democracy has cancelled out most of the political and legal reforms of the end of the 190s and 1990s. It has created a regime which prevents equal dialogue between civic society and the authorities, as well as making it impossible to find out the real truth about the events of autumn 1999, and other terrible tragedies – “Nord Ost” and Beslan. Many journalists and civic activists who were involved in investigating the terrorist acts as well as wide-scale violations of human rights in the Northern Caucuses, have been killed. These include: Sergei Yushenkov, Yury Schekochikhin, Anna Politkovskaya, Alexander Litvinenko, Stanislav Markelov and Natalya Estemirova.

Lawyer for victims of the Moscow bombings Mikhail Trepashkin was arrested in October 2003 on an overtly trumped-up charge – literally on the eve of the trial of those charged with the September bombings.

Unfortunately the Moscow public has not shown the same close attention to the investigation into the explosions in Moscow as was seen with the investigation into the events at Beslan. There, under pressure from the relatives of the victims, the authorities were forced to hold a parliamentary investigation into the events of 1-3 September 2004 and agreed to an open court hearing which revealed the dubious side of the authorities’ actions.  

In the Moscow City Court they managed to have the trial over the apartment bombings behind closed doors, and the victims and their representatives were unable to have any impact on its course. Therefore far from all those who saw the people charged with carrying out the terrorist acts in Moscow were questioned by the court as witnesses.

Later Nord Ost victims who demanded that the State be held responsible for the use of special devices, for failings and negligence in rescuing the hostages, were unable to rely on support from the wider public.

The mystery surrounding the terrorist acts of 1999 and subsequent years, the accumulation of official propaganda and lies, and especially the sinister “training exercises” in Ryazan have to a considerable extent fuelled versions which are difficult to refute asserting the role of the security service in those events.

The authorities have not been able to assuage doubts and even accusations of complicity (overt or indirect) in the most publicized terrorist acts. This has not only seriously undermined the prestige of the Russian State, but most importantly has and continues to exert a demoralizing effect on our society, and has not removed fear and distrust of the authorities.

Over the last 10 years there has been no success in finding answers to questions of vital importance in understanding what was behind the bomb blasts in Moscow and Volgodonsk. For example, reliable information about “flirting” with terrorist groups and even infiltration of these by security service officers has not received a legal and political assessment. A typical example was that of the “Ryazan” gang headed by an FSB agent later killed - Max Lozovsky whose involvement in organizing terrorist acts in Moscow at the end of 1994 was proven in the courts.  At the trial of those who carried out the explosions of 1999 not all circumstances around the creation of the criminal group were investigated, nor the preparation of the terrorist act, important details regarding its implementation and expert assessments of the explosive devices used.

The most improbable answers were given in connection with the so-called planned training exercises in Ryazan when the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the FSB [Federal Security Service] gave mutually exclusive versions of the events, which didn’t deny involvement in the terrorist act of 23 September 1999 of FSB officers in Moscow. All of that happened on the eve of the bombing of Grozny by federal aviation, when the next day [Putin’s] well-known call to “dunk them in the latrine” was heard.

We consider that until Russian citizens insist on learning the truth from the authorities about events of this kind and begin defending their basic rights, together and effectively, we are doomed to new victims of bloody crimes and primitive propaganda, to mutual hatred and unwarranted suspicions.


Sergei Kovalev, Chair of the Public Commission investigating the apartment bombings in Moscow and Volgodonsk and the training exercises in Ryazan in September 1999 [the Public Commission]

Valentin Gefter, Director of the Human Rights Institute, member of the Public Commission

Lev Ponomarev, Executive Director of the civic organization “For Human Rights” and member of the Public Commission

Lev Levinson, Human Rights Institute Expert, Executive Secretary of the Public Commission

Mikhail Trepashkin, Lawyer and Expert for the Public Commission

Nina Katerli, writer and member of the Moscow Union of Writers and PEN club

Andrei Piontovsky, writer

Ernst Cherny, Executive Secretary of the Public Committee in Defence of Scientists

Sergei Davidov, Union in Solidarity with Political Prisoners

Yury Samodurov, Curator of Exhibition Projects

Sergei Sorokin, Anti-Violence Movement

Mikhail Kriger, Tatyana Monakhova, Andrei Nalyotov, Anti-Military Action Committee


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