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Russian Linking Putin to 1999 Terrorist Attacks Given Asylum; Bush Uses as Political Tool
by jesse, cle-imc newswire Tuesday, Mar. 01, 2005 at 3:49 AM

Russian asylum applicant Alyona Morozova, 28, was granted asylum last month by the United States. She fears reprisal from the Russian government for uncovering information implicating the Putin administration in terrorist attacks it had blamed on Chechen rebels.

During Semtember, 1999, Moscow suffered a series of bombings that destroyed several blocks of apartment buildings, claiming over 300 lives. Occurring just before the Russian election, Putin used the attacks to justify breaking three years of peace with Chechnya and launching a second war which continues to this day. The promise of a hardline response to "Chechen atrocities" was a deciding factor for Putin, then Prime Minister to Boris Yeltzin, securing the Russian presidency.

Alyona Morozova suffered injuries in the 1999 Moscow bombings, which also killed her mother and boyfriend. Her personal involvement led her to prompt an investigative commission set up by prominent human rights activist and former Duma Deputy Sergei Kovalev to investigate the circumstances of the 1999 bombings. The Commission's shocking investigation led her to believe it was the FSB (Federal Security Service) secret police, under orders from Putin himself, who are responsible for the bombings, and not Chechen rebels. Before becoming Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin was head of the FSB secret police, and they have maintained close ties over the years.

Since the Commission began its investigation, two of its four members have been systematically eliminated. State Dumo Deputy and Commission co-chair Sergei Yushenkov was murdered, and Yuri Shchekochikhin died from a mysterious "food allergy". Mikhail Trepashkin, former FSB agent and Morozova's attorney, was suddenly arrested on espionage charges a week before he could publish his findings. Human Rights First reports that other Commission supporters have been brutally beaten and removed from their seats in the legislature. Morozova has applied for asylum in the United States, believing the FSB is responsible for the deaths and fearing for her own life.

The documentary Disbelief, released at last year's Sundance Film Festival, details the involvement of the FSB in the 1999 bombings. The film includes interviews with Morozova.

The Bush administration has previously been careful to avoid taking a stance regarding the 1999 bombing, and has denied 2 previous requests by Morozova for asylum.

Why the change of heart?

A Gwynne Dyer column suggests it's a tactical political response to Putin's wavering support for US foreign policy goals. While US Citizenship and Immigration Services uses morality rhetoric to frame the asylum, no new facts have come to light regarding the bombing since her previous two request denials. Its more likely motivation, as Dyer points out, is Russia's failure to support aggressive US policy toward China, Syria, and the EU. If true, the US would be using the asylum to gain political leverage under a cloak of humanism.

While the US continues aggressive policy toward Russia, continuing Cold War-style sanctions and using human rights language for political leverage, critics fear such an approach will be devastating to US-Russian relations, and will only further the perception of the United States as a "rogue nation".

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