Repression has always been, and continues to be, an instrument of state in Russia. For many years, there has been strong evidence that terrorist incidents there have been regularly initiated by the FSB as part of a State mechanism to justify repressive action elsewhere.
In 1999 a campaign of apartment bombings took place in Moscow and several other cities. Putin blamed them on Chechen terrorists whose Islamic International Brigade had just invaded Dagestan on Russia's southern border, resulting in a major Russian offensive against Chechnya, the horrors of which were to fill our television screens for some time. In 2002 some fifty Chechen separatists stormed a Moscow theatre - half of them women, all wearing suicide belts. Russian special forces eventually subdued the terrorists by pumping in a chemical sleeping agent, many of the hostages were also killed when they inhaled it. Then in 2004, no one will forget the horrors of the Beslan school massacre. Chechen rebels took over 1,000 people - the majority children - hostage in a small town in North Ossetia, rigging up the school with explosives. After three days of attempted negotiations, Russian forces stormed the school, but many of the children lost their lives in the ensuing gun battle. More recently, terrorists planted a bomb at Domodedovo, Moscow's busiest airport, which indiscriminately killed or maimed over 200 people.
On the face of it, a recurring theme has been that the terrorists stemmed from Russia's soft underbelly, where the regions have either separatist ambitions or fester old antagonisms from the injustices done to their peoples by the Russians during the Soviet era - regions like Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia and Ossetia. In Russia, though, things are often not what they seem. A barrage of international and Russian journalists have accused the FSB (Russian Security Service) of stage-managing many of the terrorist incidents in order to justify planned Russian acts of repression. Just as Hitler simulated acts of aggression by Polish troops to justify the Nazi invasion of Poland, many people believe, for example, that the apartment bombings in 1999 were in fact perpetrated by the FSB in order to legitimise the subsequent invasion of Chechnya and the assumption of power by Putin, its former head. Does this sound far-fetched? Well, if you think so, take into account the fact that, at the time of the apartment bombings, an unexploded bomb was found and defused in Ryazan which turned out to have been planted by three FSB agents!
And this is far from the only example of the FSB's hand being behind acts of terrorism: many Russian commentators have accused the FSB of being involved in the bomb explosions in the marketplace in the southern Russian city of Astrakhan in 2001, at the bus stops in Voronezh (a city more or less on the Don river) in 2004 and on the Moscow-Grozny train in 2005. There is also strong evidence that the FSB organised the kidnapping of numerous journalists and international NGO workers during the Chechnya conflicts, pretending to be Chechen terrorists, in order to build up international support for the Russian invasion. And few can doubt that the murder of Alexander Litvinenko in London was masterminded by the FSB.
This theme of state sponsored terrorism is a key theme of my new thriller, Corruption of Power, where Nadia, a freelance terrorist based in Tashkent, operates freely throughout the former Soviet Union. She is effectively a gun for hire, often by the authorities – she has no agenda of her own. She kills to order, without commitment to a cause and without asking questions, and it is this that makes her so disturbing.