February 7, 2002
The Kremlin claims that the personal file of the first president of Chechnya, Dzhokhar Dudayev, found in the course of a special operation in the villages of Novye and Starye Atagi, Chechnya, revealed a plan to seize a Russian nuclear-powered submarine in 1995-1996. Russian NTV reported on 4 February 2002 that seven people of Slavic descent were expected to participate.
In addition to his personal mobile phone and several radio stations, photos of Dzhokhar Dudayev, his personal military file (purloined from his military unit) and his personal stamps were found (along with illegal firearms) in a house populated by refugees.
The Chechen rebels have long been known to have an interest in Russian nuclear submarines, if only for propaganda purposes. Shortly after the Kursk sank on 12 August 2000 in the Arctic Barents Sea with 118 crew on board, the pro-Chechen "Kavkaz" web-site claimed that rebels were responsible for the vessel's destruction.
Kavkaz wrote that "a member of the crew made contact with the rebel high command through a close friend from Dagestan in [June 2000]. He made clear his desire to help the Muslims of Chechnya and Dagestan in their struggle against the Russian empire.
"The sailor said he had access to top secret naval equipment and could sink [the submarine] if he got the chance. He emphasized that he was willing to die for Allah in order to help his Islamic brothers who were fighting against a common enemy."
Everyone wanted in on the Chechen conspiracy theory. Dmytro Korchynskyy, head of the nationalist Ukrainian Political Association "Brotherhood", claimed that two explosive devices (equivalent to 800 grams of TNT) were planted during repair work, that "people close to [Chechen field commander] Ruslan Gelaev" were responsible and that the Chechens paid only $6,000 to a repair team member to plant the explosive devices.
Korchynski also claimed that Russia's Federal Security Service ignored a warning two weeks before the "Kursk" tragedy, since the informer was from less-than-trusted Chechen interim administration head Akhmed Kadyrov's entourage.
Two Dagestanis were on board the Kursk - Mamed Gadzhiev (a civilian specialist from the Makhachkala firm Dagdizel reportedly on board to test a new torpedo propulsion system) and First Lieutenant Arnold Borisov. Both were cleared, as the Kursk tragedy was related to a problem with a misfiriing torpedo that set off the fatal second blast.
At the end of January 2002, Colonel of Justice Artur Yegiyev told the Moscow Rossiyskaya Gazeta that the investigation failed to yield any information that would allow the Russians to say an act of terror or sabotage had been committed.
Meanwhile, General Yury Baluyevsky, first deputy chief of Russia's General Staff, told a 2-3 February 2002 weekend edition of the Tribuna newspaper that the Kremlin's priority was being given to sea-launched rather than land-based Topol-M ballistic missiles. With a range greater than 10,000 km (6,250 miles), the Topol-Ms were designed to defeat the same sort of missile defense systems that the United States is now planning to build.
While this is a significant shift in missile strategy, it is probably spurred more by budget constraints than anything else. Dwindling funds leave the Kremlin with an "either or" choice between land and sea-based (which are harder to detect) systems. - Adam Geibel