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Russia: Former Agent Points Finger At FSB

Prague, 25 July 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Former Federal Security Service (FSB) Lieutenant Colonel Aleksandr Litvinenko, who is now living in Great Britain, testified by satellite link on 25 July before a public commission looking into the 1999 apartment-building bombings in Moscow and other Russian cities, Russian and Western news agencies reported the same day. Litvinenko's representatives distributed to the commission copies of a handwritten document purported to be the testimony of Achemez Gochiyaev, who is wanted by the FSB in connection with the bombings.

According to the document, Gochiyaev was approached by an unidentified school friend -- who he believes was an FSB agent -- in 1999 to rent four basements in Moscow for use as storage. He did this, and only after two explosions did he figure out that the locations were the ones that he had rented. He claims he anonymously called the authorities and warned them about the other two locations, preventing additional explosions.

Russian authorities immediately blamed the bombings on Chechen terrorists, and used the explosions as the reason for launching the current campaign in the breakaway republic.

Exiled tycoon Boris Berezovskii has claimed publicly that the FSB actually organized the bombings in order to create a pretext to invade Chechnya. The FSB has denied these allegations.

Litvinenko obtained political asylum in London after blowing the whistle on an alleged plot by the FSB to assassinate Berezovskii. He was sentenced in absentia last month to a 3 1/2-year suspended sentence for abuse of power.