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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Creating a Diversion for the Real Culprits

Retired Colonel Vladimir Kvachkov was arrested in connection with the attempt on Anatoly Chubais' life. And I think this reveals more about who is behind the attack than anything else.

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Kvachkov was arrested because his wife owned the green Saab that the assassins piled into right before witnesses' eyes. This is the first time in the history of high-profile contract killings that the suspect involved has been accused of doing something as ridiculous as shooting at his target with his own pistol, stabbing him with his own knife or fleeing the scene in his own Saab. Of course, there's a first time for everything, but not if you're a retired military intelligence expert. Thirty years ago, Kvachkov had the rules for getting rid of well-guarded marks pounded into his head. And if these rules were later wrung from his brain by senility, then how did the man manage to organize an assassination attempt at all?

On top of everything else, I personally see Kvachkov's arrest as an insult to the Directorate of the General Staff, or GRU, on the part of the prosecutor's office. The GRU is not that incompetent at teaching its trainees how many bullets it takes to destroy an armored car and how to avoid leaving a calling card at the scene of the crime. And it makes no sense to cast a GRU colonel in the role of disgruntled pensioner.

If you want to know why, just think back to 1999, when the independent republic of Ichkeria appeared in the Caucasus. Former field commanders headed to Russia for talks. They were given guards to keep an eye on them from the very same special forces units that they had fought in Chechnya. The field commanders went with their guards to relax at a nightclub. As they kicked back, they began boasting of their military exploits, of course, and the guards had to stand there and listen to them. They listened, gritted their teeth perhaps, but kept their mouths shut. They were on duty. They were upholding the professional discipline that had been inculcated into them over many years of service. Sometimes, you do hear of a special forces officer turning to contract killing to make a buck. But they never turn into pensioner Robin Hoods. Their mindset is completely different. A GRU colonel knows perfectly well that an assassination attempt on Chubais is more than just a crime. It's an act of terrorism.

So why did prosecutors single out Kvachkov? There are three possible answers.

The first is that he actually did try to kill Chubais. Stranger things have happened, after all.

The second possibility is that Kvachkov was randomly picked up as part of the investigation. Investigators needed immediate results, and Kvachkov got caught in their dragnet.

The third and least pleasant version is that the organizers of the attack on Chubais knew that the authorities would be looking for them. While casing Chubais' dacha, they gathered information about his neighbors. They then decided that a GRU colonel would make the perfect scapegoat.Why go after a retired GRU man? The first thing that comes to mind is the long-running rivalry between the GRU and the FSB.

In this version of events, those behind the attack are able to influence the investigation. Moreover, they seem able to influence Chubais himself, who has recently gushed about investigators' professionalism. This says more about the folks who ordered the hit than anything else.

Chubais has been playing a very ambiguous role in the democratic movement for several years. On one hand, he clearly heeds the Kremlin's commands. On the other hand, the Kremlin constantly suspects him of acting as a double agent. Apparently, Chubais got a lesson in what will happen if the democrats unite in a way the Kremlin disapproves of. It seems to be no accident that President Vladimir Putin called Chubais right after the assassination attempt.

Yulia Latynina hosts a political talk show on Ekho Moskvy radio.