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Film Links 1999 Moscow Bombings to Security Services - 2002-03-12

A controversial film about a series of apartment blasts in Russia was shown publicly for the first time Tuesday in Moscow to a group of journalists. The presenters of the film say it proves that the Russia's security services were behind the apartment bombings in 1999, in which about 300 people died.

This from a scene from in the film Assassination in Russia. The movie is about a series of apartment blasts in Russia in 1999 that killed hundreds of people and sent virtually all of Russia into a panic.

The film makes no attempt to hide its point of view. As the narrator is calling members of the Russian security service "terrorists" for their alleged role in the explosions, the film shows a scene from President Vladimir Putin's inauguration.

Back in 1999, Russian officials blamed the explosions on Chechen separatists and used the explosions as a reason to invade the breakaway region. But the message of the film is that the explosions were really carried out by an agency of the Russian government, the Federal Security Service, possibly with the knowledge of President Putin. Blaming the explosions on the Chechens, the movie suggests, was a way to galvanize public support for the war in Chechnya.

Much of the film is devoted to one incident in the city of Ryazan on September 22, 1999. Police, alerted by local residents, found what they described as explosives and a detonator in an apartment building. This discovery came after explosions in Moscow and the southern city of Volgodvorsk had already killed some 300 people.

At first, the police in Ryazan claimed to have stopped a terrorist attack, but two days later FSB officials offered a different story. They described the incident as a training exercise to test public vigilance. They said the bags of explosives were sugar.

In the film, critics of the FSB are shown describing the incident in Ryazan as a botched attempt by the security service to blow up another building.

Sergei Yushenkov is a member of the Russian parliament who arranged Tuesday's screening.

Mr. Yushenkov says the FSB was responsible for the Ryazan incident and should be held accountable.

Officials from the FSB have repeatedly denied that they had any role in the explosions. And although the film raises questions about the role of the FSB and President Putin in the explosions, it offers no direct evidence of their involvement.

At the screening in Moscow on Tuesday, Mr. Yushenkov said that since Russian television stations had refused to broadcast the film, his political party, Liberal Russia, had decided to show the film across the country at their local headquarters. His party is calling for an independent investigation of the explosions.

Liberal Russia, like the movie, is partially funded by self-exiled businessman Boris Berezovsky. Mr. Berezovsky helped elevate Mr. Putin to power, but he later left Russia and has become an opponent of the Putin government.