Russia suffered its first terrorist attack outside the North Caucasus since the Domodedovo airport bombing that killed 37 and injured 178 in January 2011. Though the situation is still fluid, here is what’s known so far. Six people are dead and more than 30 injured when a female suicide bomber identified as Nadia Asiyalova, 30, a resident of Dagestan, exploded a bomb with screws and shrapnel through the main cabin of a bus in Krasnoarmeisk district of Volgograd. The explosion occurred around 2 pm as the bus left a stop. Describing the scene, one source told Kommersant, “There were people without arms and legs. I’ve only seen this during counter-terrorist operations in Chechnya, but didn’t think that I would witness something similar in peacetime.”
Looks like North Caucasian terrorists have decided to bring the war closer to home.
Unsurprisingly, one of Russia’s famous dash-cams captured the explosion:
Asiyalova is the wife of Dmitri Sokolov, a Russian who joined the Makhachalia Brigade terrorist group in Makhachkalia, the capital of Dagestan. Sokolov apparently converted to Wahhabi Islam in 2010. According to information from Russia’s security forces the couple met at university in Moscow where Asiyalova recruited Sokolov. A year ago, a Life-Alert was issued pleading for information on Sokolov’s whereabouts. Sokolov is said to have disappeared in July 2011 after not coming home after an Arabic language class. As for Asiyalova, it’s being reported that she suffered from a severe bone disease, which, in addition to her conversion of Wahhabism, might have played a factor in becoming a suicide bomber. At any rate, she becomes the latest “black widow” to strike Russia.
According to Life News, police are hunting for three men suspected as the possible organizers of the attack: Sokolov and two others, Ruslan Kazanbiev, 25, and Kurban Omarov, 25. The latter two are believed to have orchestrated a bombing in Dagestan that killed 14 and wounded 100 in May 2012.
The bombings come just a few months after Doku Umarov, the self-proclaimed Emir of the Caucasus Emirate and Russia’s most wanted terrorist, called for terrorist attacks on Russia in the lead up to the Sochi Winter Olympics. Asiyalova’s attack just might be the first of more to come.
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By Sean — 2 years ago
Gordon Hahn, analyst and Advisory Board Member at Geostrategic Forecasting Corporation and Adjunct Professor at the Middlebury Institute for International Studies in Monterey. He is the author of several books, most recently of The ‘Caucasus Emirate’ Mujahedin: Global Jihadism in Russia’s North Caucasus and Beyond. You can read his current analysis on Russia at his blog Russian and Eurasian Politics.Post Views: 93
By Sean — 11 years ago
Last week it was Litvinenko, this week it’s Yegor Gaidar. November has been the month of political intrigue, assassination, conspiracy theory, paranoia, hysteria, all with some hard political analysis mixed along the way. If the temporal lens is widened, one might suggest that this is Russia’s “Autumn of Assassination” Though the jury is still out on whether Gaidar belongs in a lineage of political killings that include Andrei Kozlov, Anna Politkovskaya, Aleksandr Litvinenko, and the lesser commented on, Movladi Baisarov, the fall has been drenched in blood. After all, it was already in early October that Kommersant declared it the “Season for Settling Scores,” as Kozlov’s murder was rated the most significant event for that economic quarter. Little did the business daily know that Kozlov was only the beginning.
But all eyes are now on Gaidar and whether he was poisoned or not. His press secretary and family says yes; while eyewitnesses like former Moscow correspondent for the Irish Times, Seamus Martin, says no. In an email published in Johnson’s Russia List #270, Martin said that he witnessed Gaidar’s illness:
In the corridor outside he became very ill with a severe nose-bleed and vomiting which contained some blood. The fact that he spoke to the people who were helping him shows that reports that he was “unconscious for three hours” are unfounded. The ambulance service personnel noted that his blood-pressure had become very high and he was taken to the James Connolly Memorial Hospital in the Dublin suburb of Blanchardstown. The Irish Times had a reporter at the hospital for much of that evening and reported that Mr Gaidar’s condition was linked to diabetes.
I enquired about his condition about two hours after he was taken ill and was told that he was fine and would be released from hospital after a period of observation. Mr Gaidar was kept in hospital overnight and his condition had improved to the extent that he was released the following morning. He then spent the entire day and that evening at the Russian Embassy in Dublin before travelling home.
Martin’s testimony has since been quoted in a Reuters report. He also disputed the fact that Gaidar was unconscious for three hours. “He was speaking to the ambulance men when he was taken by ambulance and unconscious people are very unlikely to be talking to people when they walk into an ambulance,” Martin told Reuters.
Nevertheless, the mystery continues. As does the Litvinenko case. So much so that now the FBI is involved in the investigation. Though given the fact that the FBI had to recently shell out $2 million and give a public apology for the two week detention of Brandon Mayfield, Scotland Yard might want to rethink their help. Mayfield was falsely arrested and detained under the Patriot Act because the FBI linked a partial print found at the Madrid bombing site to him.
And how fast do the winds of the media change. While the Kremlin was immediately accused of orchestrating Litvinenko’s murder, it appears that a media backlash has occurred among Russia political analysis and watchers. As Charles Gurin comments on the Eurasian Daily Monitor, Gaidar’s poisoning is adding to an already infectious rash of conspiracy theories.
Of all of them floating around the press and cyberspace, the theory that is now generating the most steam is that there is a power struggle going on within the Russian political elite over who will be Putin’s successor. Even the mainstream American press, like Time Magazine, is contemplating this scenario.
This is also the theory being put forward by the oppositional weekly, Novaya gazeta. In an editorial published in the November 27-29 edition titled “Let’s Call Them the Third Term Party,” the scope of analysis was widened to not only include the high profile murder, but also the tensions with Georgia and the raids by Chechen security forces in Russia . The editors write,
Politics has become public again – not in the sense of being open, but in the way it’s clearly aimed at the general public. And not because there’s any intention of listening to the public’s opinion about various social development models, or allowing the public to participate in a real change of administration. It’s intended to agitate and shock the public, depriving it of that sense of stability, illusory though it was, which had been Vladimir Putin’s major deity, argument, and instrument throughout his time in power.
Dubbing the season, the “Autumn of Escalation,” the editors argue that “the ruling elite is enmeshed in business interests, its members are starting a power-struggle over retaining control of revenue streams, reinforcing their political platforms in the lead-up to a potentially dangerous replacement of the master of the Kremlin. Since the various political-economic factions at the top have different and frequently irreconcilable interests, the authorities are fragmenting – and the fragments are starting to act ever more autonomously and chaotically.” As Puffy said, it’s all about the Benjamins, baby.
If this any of this is remotely true, the paranoia about “colored revolutions” might be the least of the Kremlin’s worries. Rouge elements in the FSB, elite factions, conspiracies, and high profile assassinations all orchestrated from within might be a more pressing concern. The “Autumn of Assassination,” the “Season of Settling Scores,” and “Autumn of Escalation,” or whatever you want to call it, might lead to more blood drenched months.Tags: Anna Politkovskaya|Litvinenko|Gaidar|Putin|Russia|Russian oligarchs|conspiracy|media|terrorism|Russian politicsPost Views: 33
By Sean — 8 years ago
Scott Anderson’s article “Vladimir Putin’s Dark Rise to Power” is a throwback to the 1990s when ex-KGBmen turned mafioso, private security, or hired hands to execute nefarious plots. It is also a showcase of bygone figures. Once powerful, influential, or at least in the public eye who have since drifted into memory only to be periodically conjured up as partisan weaponry of high politics. You know the names: Boris Berezovsky, Alex Goldfarb, Aleksandr Litvinenko, and Mikhail Trepashkin. The latter serves as the hero of Anderson’s tale. The gatekeeper of a longstanding conspiracy that many Russians know well: The FSB carried out the apartment bombings on Guryanova St. in Moscow that brought down eight floors and killed ninety-four residents in their beds.
It’s been a while since Trepashkin’s name graced an English language publication. He’s spent the last several years serving two stints in the clank. In 2003, he was arrested for illegal arms possession and divulging state secrets (the former charge was eventually dropped, the latter stuck). And then just as he was freed in September 2005, he was scooped up again. He was released in 2007. Four years for likely trumped up charges. Such is what happens when you piss off the wrong people in Russia.
But now Trepashkin has come out of the woodwork to tell his story to Scott Anderson. But the details of the story aren’t really the issue. Anyone who’s familiar with the apartment bombings already knows the in-outs of the incident and the conspiracy theories behind them. Anderson didn’t even have to go to Russia. He could have just watched that horrible Rebellion: The Litvinenko Case documentary and got the story there.
The real story, however, is really the story itself. Indeed, as many Russia watchers discovered last week, Conde Nast, the company that owns GQ in Russia, made an executive decision to not run the story there. According to the NPR report on the matter:
“Conde Nast management has decided that the September issue of U.S. GQ magazine containing Scott Anderson’s article ‘Vladimir Putin’s Dark Rise to Power’ should not be distributed in Russia,” Birenz wrote.
He ordered that the article could not be posted to the magazine’s Web site. No copies of the American edition of the magazine could be sent to Russia or shown in any country to Russian government officials, journalists or advertisers. Additionally, the piece could not be published in other Conde Nast magazines abroad, nor publicized in any way.
The story doesn’t even exist on GQ’s English site. The only place you can read the story is on Gawker and a site called Ratafia Currant. So what made Conde Nast pull the plug? Self-censorship? Commercial interests? Or was it a plain PR stunt to bring attention to an article that would most likely be ignored? Who knows. I am more inclined to think the latter.
But the thing I find funny about all of this is Gawker‘s self-appointed mission to translate the article into Russian “as a public service” because “Condé Nast has gone to extraordinary lengths to prevent Russians from reading a GQ article criticizing Vladimir Putin.” I mean, really what planet are they from? Um, the Iron Curtain, like, fell eighteen years ago. There isn’t a cloak of darkness over Russia that filers out anything anti-Putin. Take it from me, the Russians don’t need Americans to save them from themselves. The last time that happened, it didn’t work out to well for the Russians.
The truth is that this conspiracy isn’t new by any means. Nor does Anderson shed any new light on it. An internet search will turn up all sorts of versions of it. Hell, even the Russian wikipedia entry on the bombings chronicles the “unofficial versions” of the story. Yet Gawker is all ecstatic that a few Russian sites have picked up their Russian translation. One is a blog on LJ. The other is one of those creepy Russian nationalist forums. Now Russian news outlets have picked up on the story and adding their own conspiracies to explain the conspiracy. But the thing is there might not even be one. According to a statement from Nikolai Uskov, the editor-in-chief of GQ Russia, published in Nezavisimaya gazeta:
It is hard for me to comprehend how this company can prevent the distribution of its own magazine anywhere. What has reverberated on Ekho Moskvy and then repeatedly said on the Internet, is not completely correct: a Russian publisher, like any other media company, is an independent product. We’re not obligated to reprint American material, and moreover receive recommendations not to do so. I have personally not received any prohibitions or directions whatsoever from management about not translating or reprinting this article. But it would also not enter my head to do it. . . . Similar material in the Russian media would appear quite strange today. There is nothing in this article that is sensational.
Basically, the story is old news. And if there is an order to not translate and publish the story, Uskov hasn’t heard of it. That’s rather strange isn’t it?
So is Conde Nast’s act of “self-censorship” merely a back handed way to stir up criticism of Putin and the strangling of the press in Russia? Perhaps. But perhaps as Evgeny Morozov notes, it just might be pure incompetence on Conde Nast’s part and now they are suffering the whiplash of the Streisand Effect. After all, Conde Nast isn’t really getting anything from this but a bunch of negative press. But as they say even bad press is good press.
But the article and the whole stunt surrounding it might just be another opportunity to piss on Putin. Though the piss will come more in a trickle than a hot steady stream. His image among Americans is already so soiled that not even the toughest Tide Stain Release could wash it clean. One more story about a shadowy Putinist plot can’t make things any worse. Nevertheless, the timing is interesting. This week is tenth anniversary of the bombings and a month shy of ten years since Putin became Prime Minister. Digging up the conspiracy is just another reminder that the strongman of Russia might have gotten his power by exploiting a tragedy that was really carried out by his buds in the FSB.
Remember children, conspiracies happen over there in the dark shadowy world of Russia. It’s that whole “‘riddle wrapped up in an enigma” thang. Here in America, we rightfully dismiss our crackpot conspiracy theorists–from the 9/11 Truthers to the tin-foil wearing Trilateral Commission believers and Lyndon La Rouchites–for what they are: nutjobs. But their Slavic equivalents? Nah. Somehow they are bearers of the truth.Post Views: 93