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Friday, 17 September, 1999, 16:10 GMT 17:10 UK
Russia's bombs send political shockwaves
Firefighter in ruins
Russia's bombs may cause political as well as material damage
By BBC News Online's Stephen Mulvey

The security crisis in Russia has brought calls for President Yeltsin to resign, and left Moscow abuzz with rumours of conspiracies, possible sackings, and predictions that a state of emergency will be imposed.

Russia crisis
A group of regional leaders - members of the upper house of the Russian parliament, the Federation Council - have drafted an appeal for Mr Yeltsin to quit before presidential elections next summer.

The Federation Council has decided not to debate the appeal for now, but its sponsors say they will push for a debate at the next opportunity. They claim that the bomb explosions in Moscow, Dagestan and Volgodonsk, and the fighting in Dagestan, stems from the lack of "normal government" in Russia.

The chairman of the Federation Council, Yegor Stroyev, has been quoted in an American newspaper as saying that Mr Yeltsin should step down.

Mr Stroyev later said his views had been "misinterpreted" but he stopped short of a full denial. A spokesman for the Kremlin said there must have been a misunderstanding.

Yeltsin under pressure

The calls come at a time when Mr Yeltsin is already under strong pressure as a result of his poor health, the parlous state of the Russian economy, and allegations of corruption levelled against him and his family. It is widely believed that he is no longer in day-to-day control of the country.

Boris Yeltsin invites interior minister Vladimir Rushailo to discuss the bombs
There has been some speculation that Mr Yeltsin might attempt to show his strength by once again firing his prime minister, this time Vladimir Putin.

Another rumour suggests that he could give in to calls for his resignation, and make Mr Putin acting head of state during the interim period - thus increasing the former security chief's chances of success in the resulting presidential election.

Newspapers have highlighted the powerlessness of Mr Putin's government to halt the bombings. The NTV television station poured scorn on ministers for failing to prevent the bombers obtaining explosives or transporting them around the country.

Boris Berezovsky
Boris Berezovsky denies links with Chechen bandits
One Moscow newspaper, Moskovsky Komsomolets, accused the politically ambitious tycoon, Boris Berezovsky, of being in league with terrorists from Chechnya. It also discussed a theory that Russia's security services orchestrated the bombings as a pretext for introducing a state of emergency, and delaying elections.

Another theory, published in the Moskovskaya Pravda newspaper even before the first bomb exploded, says that the Kremlin wants to use the bombing campaign to discredit the mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov, whom President Yeltsin and his followers now consider to be their main political rival.

Parliamentary elections are due in December, six months ahead of the presidential poll.

It is reported that Mr Luzhkov has declined an offer from the Interior Ministry to draft police reinforcements into Moscow - possibly because he suspects the central government of attempting to undermine him.

The security forces and the Kremlin have denied the claims of a conspiracy, or any intention to delay elections. Prime Minister Putin has said there is no need yet to declare a state of emergency.

The widely varying conspiracy theories about political motives for the bombing reflect confusion about who might lose and who might benefit from the political fallout.

Ring of steel

A proposal by Mr Putin to close Chechnya's borders by surrounding it with a ring of steel was warmly received by the Russian parliament, but some have questioned whether the Russian military has the resources to make this policy succeed. If it were to fail his reputation may be damaged.

Putin in parliament
Vladimir Putin: Proposal to close Chechen border approved by parliament
At the time of the Russian army's disastrous intervention in Chechnya, the main political prize went to the gruff former general, Alexander Lebed, who negotiated a ceasefire. His success brought him a strong showing in the first round of the 1996 presidential election.

Many Russian politicians now believe that Mr Lebed was too soft on Chechnya, and that the peace agreement should be reviewed.

In the current crisis there is little chance as yet for a politician to seize the role of peacemaker.

The bombers and their sponsors remain unknown, and the leaders of the Dagestan insurgency are regarded in Moscow as beyond contempt.

See also:

09 Aug 99 | The Economy
09 Aug 99 | Monitoring
09 Aug 99 | Europe
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