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Saturday, July 22, 2006

Putin Gone Crazy: Gives Awards to KGB for "Killing" Basayev

The New York Times reports that Russian "President" Vladimir Putin is handing out awards to his KGB cohorts for "killing" Terrorist Shamil Basayev when it's common knowledge that Basayev was quite possibly blown up in an accident (read the Washington Post report). Hmmm, if the KGB is entitled to credit for killing Basayev, perhaps La Russophobe is entitled to credit for writing War and Peace. She's pretty sure she gave Tolstoy some pointers in a previous life, just before she cured polio. Once again the whole world stands slack-jawed gaping out at outrageous Neo-Soviet activity as the Russians, lost in the their own dream world, carry on like the Emporer with New Clothes.

MOSCOW, July 20 — President Vladimir V. Putin awarded medals to members of the former K.G.B. on Thursday for what the Kremlin said was their role in the killing of the terrorist leader Shamil Basayev this month.

The ceremony, held behind closed doors, took place even as questions swirled about Mr. Basayev’s death, which has become the latest of Russia’s public mysteries.

Virtually no one has disputed that Mr. Basayev, 41, a Chechen separatist who planned the worst terrorist acts in modern Russia, is dead.

The separatists have confirmed his death and posted a video on the Internet memorializing him. Kommersant, a Russian newspaper, has published photographs of a grotesquely burned and mangled torso it contends is what remained of him after an explosion on July 10.

But the means and even the time of his death have become subjects of debate, fueled since the first hours by contradictory official statements, a climate of secrecy and opposing claims by the government, the separatists and the Russian news media. According to the official government version, Russian special services officers killed Mr. Basayev in Ingushetia, a republic bordering Chechnya, by causing an explosion near him as he stood beside a truck and cars.

The separatists have disputed this, saying Mr. Basayev, who in addition to leading a terrorist group was vice president of the separatist government that Russia forced from power six years ago, died when a truck in his convoy hit a pothole, accidentally detonating explosives the separatists were moving.

They note that early on July 10, Russian officials reported that an accidental explosion had killed several terrorists, and then, in the evening, amended the report, saying the blast had been a special operation that had been aimed at Mr. Basayev and killed him.

Whether he was killed by accident or by counterterrorism agents, the opposing claims have been joined by all manner of theories and speculation.

First, a Russian television station said Mr. Basayev’s group had been hit by a sophisticated missile that zeroed in on its cellphone signal. Other reports said a beacon had been placed in equipment or ordnance expected to be used by Mr. Basayev, and this allowed the Federal Security Service, or F.S.B., the domestic successor to the K.G.B., to track him.

Kommersant has since suggested that he was killed by rivals from Dagestan, contending that his body was riddled with bits of shrapnel identical to those contained in improvised bombs made by a well-known Dagestani bomb maker.

Another prevalent theory is that Russia killed Mr. Basayev weeks ago, and then staged an operation for public relations purposes before the Group of 8 summit meeting, which ended Monday.

Conspiracy theories are common in Russia. Parts of the population, subjected for years to Soviet propaganda and since then to television stations controlled by oligarchs or state interests, are deeply skeptical and prone to inventing or accepting alternate accounts of major events.

The Kremlin restated its official account, holding the meeting in secret but broadcasting scenes of Mr. Putin leaving the ceremony.

Dmitri S. Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, said Mr. Putin had met with fewer than 12 participants in the operation that had killed Mr. Basayev, and had issued them medals for heroism and service to the country. He said a majority of the participants came from the F.S.B., but declined to discuss additional details or to say what other security agencies had been represented.

“All of them are people who are never in public and never will be,” Mr. Peskov said.

He dismissed the separatists’ claims that their vice president died in an accident. This is an “informational war, and has nothing to do with reality,” he said. The separatists, in turn, have described the Kremlin’s version as propaganda.

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