Did Putin Plan This False Flag Attack?

In September 1999 four bombs went off across Russia, sending the nation into a terrified frenzy The government were quick to blame terrorists from the separatist Russian federation of Chechnya

But with no hard evidence linking these groups to the bombings, many suspect the government framed the rebels to consolidate its own grip on power Just weeks before, the relatively unknown former intelligence agent Vladimir Putin was elected Russian Prime Minister With low poll ratings but big ambitions, Putin was desperate for a way to make his mark with the Russian people The bombings provided that opportunity Stanford Journal editor Jeff Carr argues the bombings are critical because they began “a chain of events catapulting Vladimir Putin to the presidency”

The first attack took place at 945am on September 4th, when a car bomb exploded outside an apartment block in Dagestan Two hours later, police intercepted a second bomb concealed near the hospital where victims were being treated But this was just the beginning Two more bombings followed on the 9th and 13th September in Moscow

The final deadly attack took place on the 16th September, in the city of Volgodonsk In total 293 people were killed and over a thousand more suffered gruesome injuries The Russian government claimed the bombings followed a “Chechen trail”, indicating the separatist territory of Chechnya had masterminded the attacks However, this “trail” did not contain any concrete proof of Chechen involvement Many, such as Russian former media mogul Boris Berezovsky, suspected government of foul play

Berezovsky died mysteriously in 2013 Russian politician Sergei Kovalev says the government needed a crisis in order to exercise a more authoritarian state The attacks were the perfect scenario for this to play out He described the attacks as critical turning point in Russian history: “After the first shock passed, it turned out that we were living in an entirely different country” Importantly, there was a clear motive for this

Russia was already embroiled in conflict with Chechen forces in Dagestan As well as being a popular stance, blaming the Chechens gave Putin an excuse to start the Second Chechen War and crush the opposition John Dunlop, Senior Fellow Emeritus at the Hoover Institution, notes that the Kremlin barely investigated the attacks He points out that if the culprits were unknown, it is almost unheard of that the government would not investigate a series of fatal terror attacks It suggests that the government engineered the attacks for political goals

The implications of this are huge Journalist and Soviet Union expert David Satter says the bombings are important because “They pose the question of whether Putin is a terrorist” The answer may be in a fifth bomb, which was intercepted in Reyazan before it detonated This was the only instance in which the perpetrators were captured Amazingly, they were identified as working for the FSB, a Russian state security service

Following their arrest, the FSB Director Nikolai Patrushev announced they had been planting the bomb as part of an anti-terrorism training exercise But this admission did not hold under scrutiny When police examined the device, it tested positive for hexogen This was the exact same chemical that was used in the previous deadly attacks David Satter believes Putin’s government carefully concealed all other evidence linking it to the attacks

If true, this includes the extermination of anyone who knows the truth Several journalists investigating the attacks have met horrible ends One – Yuri Shchekochikhin – contracted a mystery illness in 2003 The disease caused his skin to peel off and his organs to collapse He died before he was able to present his findings at the public commission into the attacks

When Russian authorities refused to carry out an autopsy, Shchekochikhin’s family sent samples of his flesh to British doctors They concluded he died from thallium poisoning This is the same substance used to kill Putin’s former bodyguard Roman Tsepov in 2004 Another journalist, Anna Politkovskaya, repeatedly published articles accusing the Putin regime of organising the bombings She was shot dead in her apartment building elevator in 2006

Then, Russian state security officer Alexander Litvinenko publicly accused Putin of sanctioning her murder Litvinenko was fatally poisoned a fortnight later High profile figures including British Prime Minister Theresa May, say these deaths are a clear threat from the Kremlin to those thinking about leaking information Proof that the Kremlin creates this climate of fear emerged when a diplomatic cable was leaked from Moscow’s US

embassy Sent on March 24th 2000, it contained classified information from a former Russian intelligence officer In the cable, the anonymous officer said the truth about the bombings must remain secret because “the truth would destroy the country” However, many of the claims that Putin engineered the 1999 attacks come from people who are strongly opposed to his government Political commentators like Ingemar Wärnström say Putin is the victim of a vicious smear campaign intended to remove him from power

Furthermore, while there are many suspicious elements to these attacks, there is no firm proof directly linking them to Putin Much of the evidence comes from anonymous sources And, although these individuals often refer to evidence, until it actually materialises there is no reason to believe proof exists So, though proof that the Chechens are guilty is scarce, it does not mean Putin is responsible The circumstances around the bombings are anything but clean-cut

Putin definitely benefited from the fallout of the attacks: he had the motive and the means to carry out a false flag attack on his own people However, there is no clear evidence for his involvement, and there is evidence, however scant, that Chechen rebels carried out the attacks The mystery may never be solved

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