‘Blowing up Russia’ by Alexander Litvinenko.
This book is banned in Russia. The ban indicates just how shocking its revelations are. Litvinenko exposed the mass murder of Russian civilians by the Russian secret service. For trying to save his people from further crimes Litvinenko was killed.
The book is written in cerebral though dry prose. Blowing up Russia contains several lengthy quotations of official Russian Government statements. These press releases are couched in the polysyllabic and turgid verbiage that is so characteristic of Russian Government press releases. It focuses largely on the apartment block bombings of September 1999. Several apartment buildings in different Russian cities were blown up. About 300 Russian civilians were killed. Vladimir Putin, former head of the FSB, had just been appointed Prime Minister by the ailing President Yeltsin. Putin was groomed for succession to the presidency. Elections were coming up. What better way to rally support to the government than to start a conflict.
The flat bombings were blamed on Chechen separatists. Why would they do this? They had de facto recognition of independence. They were lobbying around the world for de jure recognition. These atrocities would hugely undermine this campaign. These attacks enraged Russian opinion and horrified the world. The book also claims that the FSB went to penal colonies and found criminals who were willing to work for them in exchange for early release. These hoodlums would ideally be Chechens or if not then from the Caucasus. They would then be hit men. After their hit was carried out these dupes would be silenced permanently.
If the Chechen nationalists wanted to renew the conflict they would attack military targets. Killing civilians did nothing for them.
The FSB announced that Chechen separatists had carried out these attacks. They offered no evidence at all. The Chechen nationalists denied they had done this. On other occasions when they bombed civilian targets they had always boasted of it. In relation to the 1999 apartment block bombings some Chechen suspects were arrested though in the end none were convicted.
Litvinenko notes that in 1994 before parliamentary elections that were looking difficult for Yeltsin’s party civilian targets in Russia were bombed. These crimes were pinned on Chechen separatists. Mr Litvinenko suggests that this was a ruse by the FSB.
As a Chekhist Mr Putin believed that human life has no value. Russian citizens are entirely disposable. They can be killed willy nilly so long as it serves the interests of the state. The interests of the state coincide entirely with the self interest of the secret service. The empire building of the securocrats mean that they demand untrammeled powers to spy on their own citizens. They can cover up any errors or injustice by saying it is a state secret.
Remember in 1999 Putin’s popularity stood at 13% before the bombings. He was associated with Yeltsin who was by then reviled. He was also seen as a crony of Boris Berezovsky. As in most countries large scale terrorist outrages make people support the government – at least in the short term.
I was hoping for more of an autobiography. This book is revealing and scintillating. In places it is slow moving but it is not a thriller. It painstakingly assembles the evidence that the 1999 apartment block bombings were carried out by FSB agents. The case this book makes is absolutely overwhelming. It quotes public discussions on television. The FSB was not accustomed to dealing with probing questions from the media.
When there was an attempt to explode an apartment block in Ryazan the attacks was foiled. This was thwarted due to a vigilant member of the public. The bomb was founded and those who planted it were arrested. The three showed their FSB identity cards and were released. They had earlier made a phone call to FSB headquarters in Moscow asking how to escape the dragnet around Ryazan.
For two days the Russian media was abuzz with news of this bid to destroy a block of flats in Ryazan. The bomb was full of hexogen. This is an explosive used by the Russian Army. Hexogen was used int the previous apartment block bombings.
After two days the FSB said that there was no bomb – it was sugar in the sacks. The FSB claimed the whole thing was a training exercise. This was a blatant falsehood. The public and the police must be informed of such an exercise in advance. There are clear and strict laws for such exercises. The FSB could not provide any corroborating information such as who ordered this training exercise of what its purpose was.
The FSB opened a criminal case in relation to the foiled attack on the block of flats in Ryazan. If it was a training exercise why was there a criminal investigation? The FSB could not get its story straight. The FSB kept contradicting itself. In a public forum discussion on television members of the public rubbished the transparent lies of the FSB. Some of those who denounced the FSB as serial liars were decorated former officers of the Russian Army.
The FSB likes to claim that anyone who reports its crimes is a foreigner. But every single participant in this television was a discussion. The FSB claimed the sacks were full of sugar. A local investigation showed that the sacks contained hexogen – and explosive. The detonator was real. The FSB then confiscated the evidence for ”further tests”. A child can recognise sugar immediately but not the FSB. The FSB took six months to test the sacks and then declare that it was sugar.
To cover up this crime the FSB then staged many so called training exercises without warning. These all contained dummy bombs. This created much confusion and inconvenience. The FSB then staged raids on so-called terrorists. They recovered 13 tonnes of hexogen. 13 tonnes! They were over zealous in planting all this evidence to then recover. It was all blamed on Chechens. A vicious wave of anti Chechen prejudice was unleashed. Many Russians called for all Chechens to be expelled. This of course played into the hands of Chechen separatists but maybe that was the point. Racism and anti Muslim prejudice became part of public discourse. How did impoverished Chechens manage to buy such a costly explosive? The Russian Army had it and the FSB was taking it for the purpose of planting it.
An FSB blew himself up trying to set a bomb on the railway line. Of course one could say he died trying to defuse a bomb but he had no equipment to do so. An FSB id card was found in another truck that blew up. The FSB can be highly amateurish. They are superb at surveillance but not at false flag operations. They are not used to having pesky journalists asking awkward questions.
The FSB is the world’s largest secret service. It is therefore extremely expensive. It does not protect the Russian people so much as explot the people. No country needs such an enormous secret service. The securocrats have to keep inventing bogyemen to justify their fat salaries. They desperately need conflict and a climate fo fear. They also need to terrify people into not speaking out.
The Chekhist clique that ruled Russia since 1917 seemed to lose power in the 1990s. It had terrorised the Russian people on a massive scale. Show trials and imprisonment for political offences were its milder methods. The secret police could torture with immunity and its crimes would never be reported. It acted with impunity and inaccountability. Anyone who voiced any doubts was accused of the crime of anti Soviet agitation. This meant exercising the right of free speech which theoretically existed under the Soviet Constitution. The secret police literally enslaved people. They were sent to do ”corrective labour” in colonies. Yes, the USSR had colonies and called them colonies. People were often worked to death there to enrich the securocrat elite who lived in opulence. This situation briefly ended in the 90s when Russia had a taste of freedom. It sadly coincided with economic meltdown. People now associate democracy with severe economic dislocation and hyperinflation. The two need not be linked. The FSB, communists and ultranationalists are very eager to make people believe that liberty means poverty. Extreme nationalist politicians, FSB men and even communists are among those who got filthy rich in the 90s despite denouncing the decadence of democracy.
The FSB cultivates and image of efficiency and omniscience. It is also capable of bungling. When the FBS forged a US Government document it made a basic mistake in the English.
Every country has an intelligence agency. Such agencies serve a proper purpose. The FSB does so to some extent. There were people in the FSB when it was founded who were actuated by a public service ethos. Some of them still believed in communist ideology to some extent. Litvinenko became alarmed when members of the FSB began hiring themselves out to criminal syndicates. They started to carry out contract killings. These hits had nothing whatever to do with the FSB’s actual mission. Honest FSB men who wished to combat organised crime were dismissed. Known gangsters were recruited to replace them. It is true that intelligence agencies sometimes co operate with gangsters because criminal gangs sometimes have secret information which is useful or can smuggle things. But this was quite different. Organised crime and the FSB began to merge.
At the time of the 1999 apartment block bombings Russia still had a free media. Prime Minister Putin saw how dangerous free expression was for his criminal clique. Putin praises Stalin to the moon. Stalin killed more Russians than anyone except Hitler. This is the sadistic tyrant whom Putin sees as a model! Is it hard to believe that someone who idolises Stalin would kill 300 of his own people in apartment block bombings? Fair trials, free speech and real elections are anathema to such a totalitarian.
For decades the secret service ran the Soviet Union. Its senior officers lived in the lap of luxury. They were sworn enemies of liberal values. Fair elections or a free media would spell the end of their rule. In the 1990s Russia had real elections and a free press. Once Putin won office he quickly dismantled the free media. Novaya Gazeta had a hard won reputation for courageous and even handed reporting. By harassment and trumped up charges this independent newspaper was gradually put out of business.
Litvinenko points out that in the First Chechen War 1994-96 and the Second Chechen War 1999-2001 the Chechen nationalists were able to sustain the conflict for far longer than should have been anticipated. Chechnya is a poverty stricken region of 2 000 000 people. How could it stand up to a nuclear power with 140 000 people? Chechnya is entirely surrounded by Russian territory. Where did the Chechen separatists get their arms from? Some were left over from the Red Army but the Chechen separatists would soon run out of ammunition. The FSB said that the Chechens got their arms and ammunition from Muslim extremists abroad. It is true that they did get some money from other countries and a few foreign volunteers came to help them. This factor was hugely exaggerated by Moscow to cover up its embarrassment and failing to crush the separatists quickly. Litvinenko said that the Chechen separatists got their weapons and ammunition by purchasing it from corrupt Russian Army officers and corrupt FSB officers. How else would the separatsist have enough ammunition to sustain the fight so long? It could be smuggled in from abroad – so Moscow said. But then it had to be smuggled across Russian territory. The government was so cash strapped that policemen and soldiers were not paid for months. Therefore some took sweeteners to turn a blind eye to arms shipments. Some people did not want the conflict to end. They sustained it by supplying the Chechen rebels with munitions.
Oleg Gordievsky and Aleksander Litvinenko said that V V Putin would be a calamity for Russia. In 2000 when Putin became president very few people wanted to listen to such prognostications. Unfortunately Litvinenko and Gordievsky have turned out to be Cassandras.
The criminal-intelligence complex now rules the country. FSB officers can live far beyond their means. Why is this? They moonlight as gangsters.
Russia has no free media now. Its journalists are entirely servile. They know what lies in store for them if they ask worthwhile questions. They never question the official narrative. They are all effectively publicists for Putin. There is only one point of view. They never dare cast doubt on the veracity of official statements. Government ministers are never challenged with awkward questions. The Kremlin’s opinion is reported as fact. There are no anti war demonstrations. Protest is seen as treachery. These journalists must know that some of what they report is bunkum. But to seek the truth is to express a death wish.
Alexander is branded a traitor by the FSB and its many blind supporters. But who is really a traitor? Is it those who set off bombs in apartment blocks to kill their countrymen? Or is it someone who valiantly reveals such crimes and tries to prevent them? Who is a patriot? Is it those who kill civilians of their nationality in order to provoke a totally avoidable war? Or is it someone who lays down his life to save his compatriots from the apartment block bombers?
This book gives chapter and verse on the apartment block bombings. There is a wealth of information that indicates that the FSB did it. Those who exposed the attempted mass murder in Ryazan have been killed or have fled abroad. This tends to confirm even more that the FSB was behind this.
Litvinenko is morally compromised by his association with Berezovsky. B Berezovksy was ethically sub optimal to put it mildly. However, he did not advocate a return to totalitarianism.
Was Litvinenko making it all up? There is plenty of verifiable evidence that he was not. If the booked is a farrago of falsehoods why outlaw it? Why was he public enemy number one? Why was he killed? If it was all so ludicrous there would be no need to kill him. Why would he say all this if it were bogus? He could have continued his lucrative career in the FSB. There have been other whistle blowers who told the same tale.
Litvinenko told the truth at the risk of his life. He spent time in prison for doing so. He was set free and wanted to leave Russia but was not allowed. It was doubtful that he would be able to escape but he managed it. The US refused him asylum. The UK granted him asylum and he had no means of knowing that the British would shelter him. He was paid only GBP 2 000 a month. This was far less than he would have made in the FSB. He was not saying all this for lucre. He is a real hero of Russia. This man put his life on the line to try to save the Russian people from the gangsters who rule them.