MOSCOW, February 4, 2004 – Today’s headlines in the Moscow Times: “Danish Reporter Denied Russian Visa.”
He had the effrontery to write articles critical of the Russian war against Chechnya.
It’s impossible to adequately convey the extent of the Russian hatred of Chechnya and Chechens. Again and again I’ve had students – middle-class, educated, intelligent, broad-minded, empathetic students – tell me that the Chechens are inhuman, that they kidnap, slaughter innocent people, cut heads off, and brutalize, and deserve everything that’s happening to them.
I know Chechens have done all these things. But I also know that Russians have also done all these things. And I find it hard to believe that savagery can be chalked up to simply national character.
Yesterday, student Oleg, the Eastern European marketing manager for a major American company and a serious student of history and current events, told me flatly that the Chechens were a race apart. “Hitler called Germans ‘the master race,’ and tried to put Germans over the rest of the world. Chechens believe they are the master race and want to dominate not only Russia, but the whole world. And they are absolutely inhuman. They should be wiped out.”
“Are you saying that you would like to kill all Chechens?” I asked, trying not to show my incredulity.
“I can tell you this,” Oleg replied, his eyes narrowing: “If I were the leader of Russia, I would force all Chechens back into Chechnya, build a wall around it, and then,” he added, pushing his thumb into the table, “I would press the button!”
“Believe me,” he confided. “They are not human!”
But Oleg is!
It is this hatred of Chechnya which catapulted Putin into instant public favor when as Yeltsin’s Prime Minister he launched the 2nd war against Chechnya in the final days of 1999 after terrorist bombings of apartment buildings in Moscow and Volgodonsk. However, there is persistent and disturbing evidence that it was the Putin-led FSB, not Chechen terrorists, who actually staged the bombings as a pretext for the anti-Chechen crusade.
I have already described the scenario: On Sept. 22, 1999, just days after a mysterious bomb in Moscow destroyed an apartment building, killing dozens, a couple in the city of Ryazan noticed strange men going in and out of the basement of their 12-story apartment building. They called the police, who found a detonator, sacks of what they identified as a powerful explosive, and a timer set for 5:30 a.m. They launched an investigation, which began pointing to Moscow FSB officials.
Two days later, a Moscow FSB officer went on TV and reported that the Ryazan bomb was actually a dummy planted by the FSB to test local security. The sacks, he said, were filled with sugar. The local police investigation was dropped.
There had been whispers about the Moscow bombing from the very beginning. The dust had barely settled when the rubble was hauled away and buried before an investigation could be completed. In early 2002, a documentary entitled “The Attempt on Russia,” financed by exiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky, was issued charging that the FSB had been responsible for the Moscow and Volgodonsk explosions.
When former Duma deputy Yury Rybakov tried to bring 100 copies of the film into Russia through Sheremetyevo Airport, they were confiscated by Customs officials. A human rights activist who managed to get a copy of the film into St. Petersburg and to show it to an audience was beaten in broad daylight on Nevsky Prospect, the city’s busiest and most important street.
In April 2002 Rybakov and two other liberal Duma deputies, Sergei Kovalyov, a Soviet-era dissident, and Sergei Yushenkov, in frustration over the Duma’s refusal to act, set up their own citizens commission to investigate the bombings.
But a year later, as Yushenkov got out of his chauffeur-driven car, he was riddled by bullets in the chest and died on the spot. A few months later another commission member died in a Moscow hospital after traveling to Ryazan to look into police corruption. He is suspected of having been poisoned.
The group’s lawyer, Mikhail Trepashkin, a former KGB official who became an FSB critic, was arrested after a traffic stop just north of Moscow. Police arrested him for illegal possession of a pistol. He says the weapon was planted.
Another commission member was beaten unconscious in Nov. ’03. Police called it simple robbery, although the “thief” had left the victim’s wallet but had taken his address book containing names and numbers of his sources.
Rybakov was defeated in last year’s Duma election after blatant vote rigging.
And Trepashkin, the hapless lawyer, had been one week away from laying before a Moscow court evidence that the FSB had been involved in the 1999 Moscow bombings as well as the Dubrovka Theater hostage taking when he was arrested on the pistol charge. Three weeks later he was transferred to a high security prison and charged with divulging state secrets. What secrets? The FSB wouldn’t say, but it doesn’t take much of an imagination to figure out.
Trepashkin’s assistant said that a man named Vladimir Romanovich had rented the basement in the Moscow apartment building that was destroyed. Romanovich, he said, was an intelligence officer whom he knew from his days in the FSB. Romanovich was killed in a car accident in Cyprus a few months later.
Another former FSB officer who linked the FSB and the Moscow bombings, Lt. Col. Alexander Litvinenko, managed to get to England, where he was granted political asylum. In the meantime, he has been convicted in absentia by Russian courts of abuse of office and stealing explosives.
As expected, Trepashkin was convicted of divulging state secrets. An article in today’s Moscow Times notes his appeal has been accepted for priority review by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
Yegor and I celebrated our half-year anniversary last night. It was just six months ago, August 4, 2003, that we slept together for the first time.
I wasn’t sure we were going to have anything to celebrate. Night before last, after my student Andrei left about 10, I asked Yegor if he wanted to go with me to the store and buy some champagne for last night’s celebration. After we returned, I worked on the Internet until about midnight. I announced I was going to bed, and asked Yegor to come lie down with me till I went to sleep. After letting Yuri out, he came back, stripped to his shorts, and crawled in bed with me.
“I have to go to the bathroom,” he said after a few minutes. “I’ll be right back.” Sometime later, I woke up shivering. No Yegor. “He’ll be here in a minute,” I told myself, and went back to sleep. Still later, I woke up again, still shivering. No Yegor. I got up. There were no lights on in the apartment. I came into the bedroom. No Yegor, no Anton. Perplexed, I dialed Yegor’s mobile phone number.
“Where are you.”
“I’m with Anton. We’re just downstairs in the yard.”
“Who all’s there?”
“Just me and Anton and Denis. I needed some fresh air. We’ll be up in five minutes.” I lay down on Yegor’s bed to wait for them, then got up and looked out the window to see them hurrying to the building from the right. I hopped back into his bed. They came in, took off shoes, came into the room, and turned on the light. Yegor came to the bed, but didn’t sit down. “What’s the matter?” he asked.
“I got cold.”
“Dane are you feeling ill?” asked Anton.
“No, I just got cold.”
They both turned around and headed into the kitchen and talked for a long time.
Then Anton returned to the room.
“Are you sleeping?”
“Unnh. Where’s Igor?”
I lay there for a second as my mind reviewed the incongruities: Igor had said he was coming right back to bed with me. He didn’t. He and Anton were outside in Denis’s car. But Yegor says he doesn’t even like Denis. Why would he deliberately put himself into the position of having to sit and talk with him, unless – unless there was somebody else in the car, somebody that Yegor did want to talk to.
Aha, so that’s it. Denis and Anton are conspiring with Yegor to bring a secret lover. A perfect situation. Perfect alibi. There was the incident last week when Yegor went to Lena’s and said he wasn’t coming home on the metro because Denis and Anton were going to come pick him up and bring him home, but they didn’t get home till 3:00 in the morning. So what’s going on, and how long has it been going on? Am I being fucked over again by trusting somebody who’s trampling all over me and I don’t even know it?
I grew more and more suspicious and furious, and finally decided I didn’t want to talk to Yegor tonight. I got up and pulled one of the blankets off his bed and headed toward mine. I met him enroute.
“I’m sorry,” he said.
“That you got cold,” and he gave me a perfunctory kiss.
Yesterday morning I discovered that Yegor had put on his good jeans to “go get some air.” More confirmation. His old everyday jeans weren’t good enough for the occasion. How long were they out there? What did they find to talk about for an hour and a half?
I would get rid of Yegor for only two things: Lying or stealing. Is he on his way out?
I devised a plan. After I returned from my morning classes, I would question Anton first. Get as many details as possible: Who, when, how long, what for, who invited who?
Then I would question Yegor. Look for discrepancies. That’s how we did it when I was learning to be a counterspy in the Counter-Intelligence training course at Fort Holabird in Maryland when I was in the Army 45 years ago.
I will remind him that I will get rid of him for only two things. I’ll tell him he’d better tell me the whole truth now, because I will find it out sooner or later, and if he tells me the truth now, he stays; if he lies to me now and I find out later that he lied, he’s gone. – no university, no money for citizenship, etc.
I’ll tell Anton the same thing. How dare he take my free rent and my free food and my free computer and then help facilitate and arrange a clandestine relationship with my boyfriend behind my back. If I find out he’s lied about it, he’s gone too. No more free rent, no more free food, etc.
Is Yegor my boyfriend? What do I want from a relationship? Sex, affection, somebody to sleep with, and a partner. We don’t have sex, we don’t sleep together. What kind of a relationship is that? And now there are some suspicious events which make me think he’s lying to me.
I don’t want to live with someone I can’t trust.
Celebration tonight? What is there to celebrate?
As planned, I interrogated Anton first, then Yegor. He said he went downstairs, but Anton was in the car with Denis.
“You don’t even like Denis.”
“I don’t like Denis.”
“Then why did you want to spend time with him?”
“I didn’t. Anton said he wanted to spend some time with Denis, to kiss him, etc., so I waited outside.”
In the cold? Yes. For half an hour? Maybe. You didn’t get cold? No. Why should I get cold? Because it was cold. I reiterated several times: You didn’t spend any time in the car with Anton and Denis? No. I waited outside. Did you walk around? No, I just stood, and sat on the bench.”
Then I came in to Anton.
“Yegor went downstairs to see you, right?”
“How long was he there?”
Maybe half an hour.”
“Where was he?”
“In the car on the street”
“The whole time?”
Alan began getting defensive. “Why do you want to know? What’s the problem?”
“I think you know what the problem is.”
“You’re making the problem. Why do you want to know?”
“I’ll tell you later.”
“Why don’t you tell me now?”
“I’ll tell you later.”
Then Yegor came into the room and I confronted them with the lie I had discovered.
To Yegor: “You said you didn’t spend any time with Denis.”
But Anton says you spent the entire time with them in the car.”
“I didn’t say that,” protested Anton vehemently. “I said he was in the car and on the street.”
Never mind. I hadn’t heard Anton say “and.” I thought he meant In the car which was on the street. My clever insight was sheer paranoia. Bad scene.
I felt like – and indubitably looked like – a cat having his nose rubbed in a piece of his own shit.
Will I never learn?
But out of it came the absolute conviction that Yegor is completely trustworthy. I will never doubt him again. He told me I’m his everything. “Nobody else has done for me what you have done. If I hadn’t met you at the moment I did, I might have done something foolish to myself.”
He loves me absolutely and completely. He’s a dear, devoted, and loyal friend – and lover.
The most wonderful of my lifetime.
We had a happy anniversary and a sweet roll in the hay.