‘The Bloody Czar’: Did a False-Flag Operation Fuel Putin’s Rise?

As a (further) Russian invasion of Ukraine grows more and more likely, last night I decided to re-read David Satter’s August 2016 cover story in the magazine, “The Bloody Czar.”

Satter, an American journalist with extensive experience in Russia and the former Soviet Union, detailed the rise of Vladimir Putin from obscurity to the pinnacle of power in Moscow — and how it all could have been catalyzed by a murderous false-flag operation.

“I believe,” Satter wrote, “that Vladimir Putin came to power as the result of an act of terror committed against his own people.”

The evidence is overwhelming that the apartment-house bombings in 1999 in Moscow, Buinaksk, and Volgodonsk, which provided a pretext for the second Chechen war and catapulted Putin into the presidency, were carried out by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB). Yet, to this day, an indifferent world has made little attempt to grasp the significance of what was the greatest political provocation since the burning of the Reichstag.


“I have been trying,” Satter continued, “to call attention to the facts behind the bombings since 1999. I consider this a moral obligation, because ignoring the fact that a man in charge of the world’s largest nuclear arsenal came to power through an act of terror is highly dangerous in itself.”

The apartment bombings — which were quickly blamed on Islamist Chechen rebels — killed hundreds of Russian civilians. Putin, newly named as the political successor to then-president Boris Yeltsin, vowed revenge and was shot into power. He then proceeded to prosecute the war in the breakaway province of Chechnya and crushed the rebels. Combined with a general economic boom, Putin become the undisputed and, for a time, extremely popular, ruler of Russia.

But, Satter writes, “Almost from the start . . . there were doubts about the provenance of the bombings, which could not have been better calculated to rescue the fortunes of Yeltsin and his entourage.”

Suspicions deepened when a fifth bomb was discovered in the basement of a building in Ryazan, a city southeast of Moscow, and those who had placed it turned out to be not Chechen terrorists but agents of the FSB. After these agents were arrested by local police, Nikolai Patrushev, the head of the FSB, said that the bomb had been a fake and that it had been planted in Ryazan as part of a training exercise. The bomb, however, tested positive for hexogen, the explosive used in the four successful apartment bombings. An investigation of the Ryazan incident was published in the newspaper Novaya Gazeta, and the public’s misgivings grew so widespread that the FSB agreed to a televised meeting between its top officials and residents of the affected building. The FSB in this way tried to demonstrate its openness, but the meeting was a disaster: It left the overwhelming impression that the incident in Ryazan was a failed political provocation.

Three days after the broadcast, Putin was elected. Attention to the Ryazan incident faded, and it began to appear that the bombings would become just the latest in the long list of Russia’s unsolved crimes.

It’s sober reading. If you want to understand the roots of what’s going on in the Donbas, read the whole thing here.

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