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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Prosecutors Call in Former FSB Officer

Former FSB officer Mikhail Trepashkin, who helps an independent commission created by a group of liberal lawmakers to investigate the 1999 apartment bombings, was summoned for questioning by the chief military prosecutor's office on Friday.

Trepashkin said the questioning was unexpected and lasted for 10 hours. He was summoned the day after he attended a commission meeting at which his former colleague, Alexander Litvinenko, presented a statement from Achemez Gochiyayev, the main suspect in the bombings who is sought by the Federal Security Service, or FSB.

Trepashkin, fired from the FSB in 1997, said he was questioned in connection with an investigation that was opened into his activities in January after FSB detectives searched his apartment looking for information on the exact whereabouts of Litvinenko, who fled to Britain in 2000 and has since been granted political asylum.

Trepashkin said the detectives found documents related to cases he had investigated some 10 to 15 years ago while still with the FSB's predecessor, the KGB. He was not supposed to have the documents at home, and the detectives have been deciding since then whether to charge him with disclosing state secrets.

"There was no mention of Litvinenko or the commission meeting during the questioning, but the urgent and unexpected way I was summoned makes me wonder whether there is a link," Trepashkin said in a telephone interview Friday.

A spokesman for the military prosecutor's office denied any link between the commission meeting and the questioning. "The questioning is a routine affair that had been scheduled for two weeks," spokesman Mikhail Yanenko said.

He said Trepashkin was summoned in connection with allegations that he had disclosed state secrets and was in illegal possession of ammunition, but he refused to elaborate.

Trepashkin was one of a group of FSB officers who appeared with Litvinenko on television in 1998 when he accused his FSB superiors of ordering him to kill Boris Berezovsky. Litvinenko has since been closely associated with Berezovsky.

On Thursday, via a video link from London, Litvinenko presented a statement he said was from Gochiyayev, in which he claimed to have had nothing to do with the 1999 explosions and to have been set up by a childhood friend whom he now suspects was an FSB agent.

Litvinenko said the statement supports his claim that the FSB, and not the Chechen rebels, as the official version goes, engineered the series of blasts in order to create a pretext for sending troops back into Chechnya in 1999.

Sergei Kovalyov, a lawmaker and respected human rights activist who heads the commission, raised questions about the statement Friday. Kovalyov questioned why Gochiyayev did not name the old friend on whose behalf he said he had rented space in the two Moscow buildings where the explosions took place.

"They are accusing the authorities of a terrible crime," Kovalyov told Interfax, saying that Gochiyayev's claims must be verified.

Kovalyov said Berezovsky, who for months has been accusing the FSB of complicity in the 1999 bombings, could well be behind a well-organized PR campaign for Litvinenko, who has co-authored a book on the subject. "I cannot say for sure that it was Berezovsky who organized all that. But this is a very natural assumption, as he is in a fierce confrontation with the authorities and has repeatedly spoken out on the 1999 terrorist attacks," Kovalyov was quoted as saying.

As if in response to Litvinenko's claims, the FSB on Friday released photos it said were of Gochiyayev in Chechnya with Khattab, a rebel leader who was killed earlier this year. The photos were posted on the web site of Itar-Tass.