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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kremlin Bomber Is Ex-Duma Bookseller




The man authorities say drove his bomb-equipped Moskvich to a fiery end before the very gates of the Kremlin is a former aide to nationalist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky who once sold books from a kiosk inside the State Duma, the lower house of parliament.


Ivan Orlov, 63, who also once taught students how to drive cars, today is plagued with a nervous facial tic and minor seizures, colleagues who worked with him at the anti-Semitic newspaper Russkaya Pravda said.


"It annoyed him that people were not talking about him. He was tortured by that fact that he was not in the public eye," Zhirinovsky said in comments broadcast by ORT television. Zhirinovsky conceded Orlov had once been an LDPR follower but added, "He was very angry, we threw him out because of his extremism."


On Thursday, Orlov was in the custody of the Federal Security Service, or FSB, whose officers were interrogating him.


A traffic police car chased Orlov's car across Red Square on,Wednesday evening as it crashed through metal railings, then came to a halt about 3 1/2 meters from the Kremlin's Spasskiye wooden gates.


Authorities say Orlov leapt out of his car seconds before a gasoline mixture in a canister detonated. The explosion, equivalent to 600 grams of TNT, injured two officers of the Federal Guard Service, ages 27 and 29, and one soldier of the elite Kremlin regiment, age 21.


It also damaged the medieval Spasskiye gates and blew out some windows in nearby buildings, but by Thursday morning the damage had been cleaned up and repaired.


Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin, speaking to reporters in Strasbourg, France, said Orlov had told interrogators that he had never intended to detonate the bomb. Stepashin said Orlov maintains the bomb was set off accidentally by gunfire from the traffic police chasing him.


Upon leaping clear of the car, authorities say Orlov pulled out a pistol. He fired three shots - Stepashin said Orlov had testified the shots were a suicide attempt - before the 21-year-old Kremlin regiment soldier disarmed him. The blast then caught both of them, slightly injuring Orlov but leaving the soldier with a shin fracture and wounds to his head and hands.


"It is the boy [from the Kremlin regiment] I feel most sorry for. It was not his duty to disarm [Orlov], but he still ran to do it," Stepashin said.


Russia's top law enforcers offered a mixed reaction to a bombing so near the official residence of President Boris Yeltsin, who was vacationing in Sochi at the time.


Stepashin said he believed Orlov had acted alone, while Andrei Kostromin, head of the FSB's Moscow directorate, said psychiatrists had diagnosed Orlov as schizophrenic. Kostromin also said Orlov had testified that his goal in assembling a bomb had only been to extort a meeting with Yeltsin and Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, not to hurt anyone.


But the director of the FSB, Vladimir Putin, said the bombing "reflected a tense situation" in Russia, and Stepashin said not only the Kremlin but much of the surrounding Red Square area needed to be better protected from would-be terrorists.


Stepashin also said there was a possible link between the Kremlin bombing and the bombing earlier this week of a statue of Tsar Nicholas II in the Moscow region town of Podolsk - which also happens to be Orlov's hometown.


And while he may have had his own personal problems and acted alone, Orlov is apparently a political animal. He was carrying Communist leaflets and a portrait of Stalin when arrested, Stepashin said. He has also testified that he has willed all of his belongings to the Podolsk branch of Gennady Zyuganov's Communist Party, Putin said.


"He was an altruist, who was just trying to win justice for the Russian people," said Alexander Ardov, editor of Russkaya Pravda, the nationalist publication where Orlov has worked as a freelance writer. Ardov described Orlov as "a sincere man of a radical character" who was driven by "the pain and sorrow he felt for a country run down by this Jewish government to such a miserable state."


In a telephone interview from his Moscow apartment, Ardov said that Orlov would have given the Russian president the same treatment he gave the Spasskiye gates - had he only been fortunate enough "to meet Yeltsin and the rest of the Kremlin scum in person."


Ardov said Orlov suffered from anxiety, stomach cramps and a tic in his lip. "He also was aggressive sometimes," the editor added.


After two years of working as an official Duma aide to Zhirinovsky, and even trying to sell Zhirinovsky's books in the Duma lobby, Orlov publicly denounced his former idol at a news conference in 1996. Ardov said more loyal Zhirinovsky supporters set upon Orlov and beat him while the television cameras rolled.


The LDPR press service confirmed that Orlov was once Zhirinovsky's aide, but denied Ardov's account of such a spectacular departure, saying only that his status had since been revoked.


After leaving the LDPR, Orlov then developed a close relationship with the Communist Party and its more radical sputniks, Ardov said.Orlov is recently divorced, Ardov said. His wife was a Georgian refugee from Abkhazia who forced him out of their Podolsk home after Orlov refused to register her relatives as permanent residents in their apartment, according to Russkaya Pravda's receptionist, Muza Ryzhova.


Orlov had no permanent income except for a meager pension left over from his job as a driving instructor, and even that has come two months late, leaving him feeling "cornered," Ryzhova said in a telephone interview.


He had also written articles for nationalist newspapers as well as two books, "The Country of Yeltsin" and "Russia Is Groaning Under Its Leaders," but none of them earned him much money.


If tried and convicted as having acted alone, Orlov could spend up to 10 years in prison. However, if prosecutors prove that Orlov had accomplices his sentence may total 15 years.