Russia pays in blood for her dirty war

FIRST NEWS reports treated it as a gas explosion, a tragedy for those involved but hardly an extraordinary event in Russia, where poorly maintained buildings have collapsed and killed the people who called them home in the past.

But long before officials concluded that terrorism was the cause, the residents of 19 Guryanovo Street in Moscow sensed that evil, not carelessness, was behind the blast that destroyed their apartment block as they slept.

The survivors could remember only the horror, but those who escaped unscathed gave cooler accounts. It could scarcely be a coincidence, said one teenager, that the explosion rocked the building on the stroke of midnight. He was sure of that because he had been listening to the Russian national anthem, played on the radio to mark closedown.

Other residents said they had smelt no gas, rather an acrid stench like sulphur. One eyewitness claimed to have seen four men speeding away in a Ford Taurus car, minutes before the blast occurred.

Only on Friday did forensic experts from the Federal Security Service confirm that a massive bomb had been planted. A claim of responsibility from a man with a Caucasian accent suggested a link to the troubled south, where federal forces are fighting to expel Chechen militants from Dagestan. Yesterday, with the death toll over 90, the authorities confirmed they had arrested two suspects, but refused to give further details.

Tomorrow a day of national mourning has been declared among the long- suffering Russian people, who have been tightening their belts in vain for the past decade while criminals have hijacked their market reforms. Allegations of corruption have gone all the way to the Kremlin and President Boris Yeltsin himself. Parliamentary and presidential elections are approaching, yet there are doubts that voters will actually reach the polling booths - some predict the elections will be cancelled - or that if they do, they will be given a meaningful choice.

And now, despite the attempts of the army to play down the conflict, it is clear Russia is again involved in a full-scale war in the Caucasus. Just as the troubles in Northern Ireland spilled over into English cities, so this war is coming to Moscow.

After the apartment block bomb in Pechatniki, a working class suburb, and another blast on 31 August, Muscovites are afraid to go out, and afraid to stay at home. Only the thousands of innocent Caucasian immigrants in Moscow - never much loved, always easy scapegoats - will be more scared.

With the benefit of hindsight, many Russians realise that it was a tragic mistake to carpet-bomb the city of Grozny during the 1994-1996 war with Chechnya, so that a wasteland yawned, fertile soil only for anarchy. Islamic fundamentalist warlords now hold the real power there. Funded, according to the Russian security services, by the radical Osama bin Laden, they are trying to destabilise neighbouring regions where the majority of people appear genuinely to want to remain within the Russian Federation - for the time being at least.

In Dagestan, the army is trying to learn from its mistakes, taking care, for example, to avoid civilian casualties. But President Yeltsin's instinct remains to lash out and crush.

As for ordinary Russians, they were still in shock. The victims of Guryanovo Street were poor, but at least they had a shabby roof over their heads. Now even that has gone.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Sport
Bafetibis Gomis of Swansea City is stretchered off at White Hart Lane
football
News
Jerry Seinfeld Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee
peopleSitcom star urges men to be more supportive of women than ever
Life and Style
Living for the moment: Julianne Moore playing Alzheimer’s sufferer Alice
health
News
Jay Z
businessJay-Z's bid for Spotify rival could be blocked
Sport
footballLouis van Gaal is watching a different Manchester United and Wenger can still spring a surprise
News
The spider makes its break for freedom
VIDEO
Voices
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
Arts and Entertainment
books
News
people
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle v United player ratings
Life and Style
love + sex
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accountant - ACCA, ACA or ACMA - Construction Sector

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Accountant (ACCA, ...

Recruitment Genius: Media Sales Executive - PR and Broadcast - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has an exciting op...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor - Shifts

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This European market leader for security...

Recruitment Genius: Freelance AutoCAD Technician

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Freelance AutoCAD Technician is required to ...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot