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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Concocting Attacks, Saving Face

I can predict with a high degree of certainty that the terrorists responsible for derailing a passenger train on its way from Grozny to Moscow on June 12 will be caught. Acts of terrorism are solved in Russia all the time, after all.

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Take the case of Zara Murtuzaliyeva, convicted in Moscow last January on charges of possessing 196 grams of plastic explosives and recruiting women to carry out a number of suicide bomb attacks. Upon her arrival in Moscow, a Chechen acquaintance put Murtuzaliyeva up in an apartment loaded with surveillance equipment. Kilometers of tape recordings yielded no incriminating evidence, but in the end the chekists nabbed the young woman in a department store with explosives in her handbag. Any investigator worth his salt would have to wonder why the agents "tending" Murtuzaliyeva didn't bring in the person who passed her the explosives. And if the agents didn't witness the hand-off, how did they know that she was carrying explosives in her bag?

Then there was retired naval officer Alexander Pumane, arrested for driving a car rigged with explosives in the center of Moscow in September 2004. Pumane died in police custody shortly after his arrest.

In May, Voronezh police arrested a man who they said had blown up three bus stops in the city. The man immediately confessed to ties with Islamist extremists and led agents to a hiding place where he had buried the Quran. Never mind that burying the Quran is sacrilege for Muslim believers.

In January, Major General Ilya Shabalkin, a spokesman for federal forces in Chechnya, announced that six terrorists had been "eliminated" in the Nozhai-Yurt district of Chechnya. Based on the quantity of explosives and weapons discovered at the site, Shabalkin declared that "a minimum of 20 acts of terrorism" had been averted.

Once Shabalkin and federal forces had departed, local residents returned to the site, where they found the corpses of six men who had been killed execution-style. Horrible injuries made it clear that the men had been tortured. Reporters from the Dagestani newspaper Chernovik conducted their own investigation and determined that all six "terrorists" were civilians from Dagestan who had been abducted or arrested during the previous six months.

As these cases demonstrate, the sort of terrorist attacks that law enforcement manages to prevent involve minimal casualties and tend to occur in the aftermath of a terrible attack that was not prevented. The Pumane saga took place shortly after Beslan, for example. And in all these cases, something doesn't add up.

The bombing of the Grozny-Moscow train fits all three criteria. No one died. The attack occurred as the latest wave of unrest gripped the Caucasus. And then there's the issue of motive. Why would Chechens bomb the train from Grozny when "success" would only earn them a host of new blood enemies? And why stage the attack 150 kilometers from Moscow, in the chekists' backyard, rather than in Chechnya?

I'm not one of those conspiracy theorists who think that every act of terrorism in Russia is staged by the Federal Security Service. My theory assumes the opposite -- that our chekists don't have the guts to pull them off. The FSB can't save us from terrorist attacks -- the 1999 bombings in Moscow and other cities, Nord-Ost, Beslan -- so it makes a great show of saving us from fake attacks.

A blunder occurred during the investigation of the train derailment. Agents said that the attack followed the same scenario as the recent attempt to kill Unified Energy Systems chief Anatoly Chubais. This is further proof that Chechens didn't derail the train. And it casts doubt on whether retired special forces Colonel Vladimir Kvachkov tried to kill Chubais.

Yulia Latynina hosts a talk show on Ekho Moskvy radio.