20 years under Putin: a timeline


Here is an interview with Achimez Gochiyaev that took place on August 20, 2002. Before us is a man without a beard; behind him is a rug, not the flag of independent Ichkeria [the de facto secessionist republic in Chechnya]; there is no AK-47 leaning against the wall of the room where the recording is being made; in his hand is a pen. The interview was given to someone he “knew well” and recorded with a video camera. As proof of the tape’s existence I was sent the first minute of the video interview – and this is what we are showing to our viewers today. A handwritten transcript of the entire interview was given to me on January 18, 2003. The text was transcribed with some inaccuracies. A precise transcript of the first minute of the video tape appears below. However, to judge from this first minute of the video interview, there are no substantial inaccuracies. In the handwritten transcription, the names of two people, “K” and “X” were omitted by the tape’s owners, as I was warned they would be. One can only speculate about the reasons for this omission.


Transcript of the first minute of the interview, checked against the tape:

Question: Tell us about yourself, where were you born?

Answer: My name is Achimez Shagabanovich Gochiyaev. I am a native of the Republic of Karachayevo-Cherkessia [in the North Caucasus]. Until 1988 I lived in the republic. In 1988, after graduating from high school, I went to study in Moscow, was drafted into the army, then returned home, and then, until September 1999, was living in Moscow, on Marshal Katukov Street in the Strogino district.

Question: How did it happen that your name became linked with the blowing-up of houses in Moscow? The Russian security services accuse you, in particular, of organizing these explosions. (Recording breaks off).


Text of the handwritten transcription of interview with Achimez Gochiyaev,

August 20, 2002

[Interviewer's commentary:] In this interview a great deal is left unspoken. The first and last names of currently active FSB officers involved in these events are known. To this day they are living peacefully in their homes and occupy high positions. This is [Gochiyaev’s]only interview. The correspondent is a person he [Gochiyaev] knows well.

Question: Can you introduce yourself please?

Answer: I am Achimez Shagabanovich Gochiyaev. I was born in the Karachayevo-Cherkesskaya Republic [“KChr”]. Until 1988 I lived in the KChR. After graduating from school in 1988 I went to Moscow, to study. From there I was drafted into the army, returned home, and then, until September 1999, I was living in Moscow, on Marshal Katukov Street

Question: How did it happen that your name became linked with the blowing-up of houses in Moscow? The Russian security services accuse you of organizing these explosions. Why is it you they blame?

Answer: How did I come to find myself in this situation? In 1997 I set up a firm for building cottages. I was in construction. In the summer of 1999, an old acquaintance whom I had known since I was in school came to the firm to see me. His name is K. He invited me to go into business with him. He said that he had places for selling goods, i.e. food products and I could help him. I would supply food products, he would sell them and pay me. One time he ordered mineral water from me, I delivered it to him and he paid me. Then he asked me to help him rent storage premises in the south of Moscow, where, he said, he had good sales locations. I found four storage sites, showed them to him, and helped him to rent them. Immediately after this, the explosion at 9 Gurianov Street [where one of those storage sites was located] took place. That day I was not at home, I was at a friend’s place. He phoned me on my mobile and said there had been some kind of fire at the storage premises and I had to go there. I said, “All right” and got ready to leave. It was early morning. I phoned for a taxi and switched on the television. In the morning news I saw that there was almost nothing left of the house. That put me on my guard and I waited. And when, a few days later, there was a second explosion on Kashirskoe Highway [another storage site], I finally realized that I had been set up. I immediately phoned the police and the rescue services and informed them of the other two storage sites; at Borisovskie Prudy Street, in the Kapotnya district, there was another storage area in a prefabricated garage. After that I had to leave Moscow. I went back to the republic and lived there for a certain time. Now what can I say. I know that K no longer hides the fact that he is an FSB employee, that he works for the FSB in the city of Cherkessk. I didn’t know that before, when I helped him.

Question: Do you think it was K who set you up?

Answer: Yes, of course. I’m sure of it; he was the one. I do not know for sure who was with him, or how it was done. The only thing I can tell you is that once on my way home I decided to drop in to visit him – he wasn’t expecting me. When I walked into his place, there was another man with him. After I’d said hello, that man left immediately. By following the press and searching the internet I just recently discovered who that man was. His name is X!!

Question: Are you sure that is the man you saw?

Answer: Yes, I recognized him from a photograph. Apart from that, in late August and early September [1999], K made several trips to Ryazan and he asked me to help him there as well. Supposedly he had places for selling goods there as well, but, as he told me, he had no firm of his own and he wanted me to register the renting of these storage premises under my firm’s name. But then he apparently found some other firm that helped him to rent the premises. I know for certain that K made a trip to Ryazan at the beginning of September [1999].

Question: What do you think, why did he choose you in particular and not someone else to rent these storage premises?

Answer: I think that the point is that I worked in Moscow.

Question: When did you work there?

Answer: In 1997, I worked there building cottages.

Question: Was the firm registered?

Answer: Yes the firm was called “KAPSTROI-2000.” My construction office was in a two-storey building beside the Barrikadnaya metro station.

Question: The press has often presented information that you’re a Chechen, and that the terrorist attacks that blew up the houses in Moscow were organized by Khattab [a native of Saudi Arabia who actively fought against Russians in Chechnya], that you were a member of Khattab’s group. There’s a photograph published in the internet where you and Khattab are in the same shot. How accurate is this photograph?

Answer: Concerning that, I can tell you the following. If you mean that photograph on the internet where I am supposedly the person with a beard and cap who is standing beside Khattab, I’ve seen that photograph on the internet. That man is not me, and he doesn’t even look much like me, and it has already been proven that it is a photomontage! Although the Russian FSB claims to this day that it is me. Now we can see and understand why this was done. They needed a Chechen connection. Even in the investigation documents I was described as a Chechen, although my identity papers were issued by the Karachayevsk District Department of the Interior Ministry, and therefore the FSB definitely knows that I am a Karachayevan. It is obvious that they needed to link me with Chechnya. It was done for that. I never knew either Khattab or his group and I have had nothing to do with them.

Question; You say that you are innocent. Why are you in hiding?

Answer: The reason is that the security services are searching very intensively for me. After the explosions in Moscow I went back to my native republic. Knowing that they had set me up, I realized that I had to hide. I lived for a while in my native republic and hid – that was after the events in Moscow in 1999. My brother was working as the head of the Criminal Investigation Division of the district. He warned me through relatives that they had a secret order not to take me alive, i.e. to eliminate me, he warned me to be careful. He was fired from his position. I also know that the Russian FSB is offering large sums of money to have me eliminated.

Question: But why do they need to have you eliminated?

Answer: Because I possess information, I know certain facts, the names of these “people,” the employees – the real perpetrators of what happened. It’s not hard to check. To this day they are still active employees of the FSB who often visit Moscow.

Question: Why don’t you contact the Russian embassy and tell them the way things really were?

Answer: There is no point. This system, the NKVD, KGB, FSB, is all one system. The name changes, but the essence, the working methods and the goals are the same. They really have a rich pedigree, and it is pointless to trust them. I know it would not do me any good at all. I am talking now just so the world can know the truth, what really happened. That is what I am hoping for.

Question: Do you feel any guilt for not trying earlier to tell the world about these events in Moscow? After all, these bombings were one of Russia’s justifications for the invasion of Chechnya. Why did you not speak out about this sooner?

Answer: It is only now that people have appeared who are willing to listen, who are interested in the truth being made public. Before, nobody wanted that. I made attempts, but no one took me up on it – people were afraid to expose themselves.

Question: Afraid of the Russian authorities?

Answer: Yes. They are afraid now, and very much so.

Question: What else would you like to say? Are there other facts that would be even more convincing?

Answer: I’ve already mentioned some facts. There are others, a great deal has been left unsaid.

Question: What was it that finally led you to hide from the authorities? When did you realize that it was you they wanted to set up? When did you come to believe this?

Answer: Immediately after the second explosion, I realized that I had been set up for certain. After the first explosion I didn’t understand what was happening. The only thing that put me on my guard was that K didn’t tell me what had really happened. He phoned my mobile and said, “Come over, there’s been a little fire,” although right then I saw on television that something terrible had in fact happened. Later I went there and had a look – it was a horrible sight. But I didn’t meet with K. I came, looked and went away. All those false documents that I supposedly used were prepared by him in advance so their operation would be a success and nothing would go wrong along the way. It did not occur to them that they wouldn’t find me at home; if they had, I wouldn’t be talking to you or to anyone else now.

Question: After what happened did anyone get in touch with you?

Answer: No. After September 13, I left Moscow. I know that afterwards there were FSB agents from Moscow working in our republic. They frightened my relatives very badly in an effort to break them. At first, I heard, they offered my sister money. Then, when she refused, they began to threaten her and demanded that she give an interview saying that I was capable of doing the bombing. First bribery, then threats.  I know they took her to the cemetery with her little child, who wasn’t even three at the time, and suggested that unless she gave testimony discrediting me, they would kill her and her child. Those are the FSB’s methods.

Question: What do your friends and acquaintances think about this?

Answer: As for my friends and acquaintances: no one who knows me believes that I could have done it.

Question: There is testimony against you from several prisoners?

Answer: I know that there are several prisoners who are also supposedly accused of terrorist acts who have given evidence against me. Given the KGB’s and FSB’s methods, and the fact there are 150 million people living in Russia, they are capable of manufacturing witnesses for a specific case. For the FSB it would not be a problem. Besides, when they describe how it all happened, the thing that amazes me most of all is how naïve our Russian citizens are. How can they think that it is possible to bring, as they say, ten tons of explosives into Moscow and set them off – it isn’t possible. No one but the security services could do it. This naïveté of our citizens surprises me greatly.

Question: The mass media are saying that in Western Georgia, in Adjaria, one of the men suspected of involvement in the terrorist attacks in Russia has been arrested and supposedly is now giving testimony that satisfies the Russian special services. Do you not think it possible that he can give testimony against you? Are you acquainted with this man?

Answer: All I know is that a certain Adam Dekkushev has been arrested and is giving some kind of testimony. I do not doubt in the least that he is giving precisely the testimony that the FSB wants. That is not surprising, under such a system. Let us recall one example from history, the arrest of [former NKVD head Lavrenty] Beria. On the second day after his arrest, Beria had confessed that he worked for ten foreign intelligence services. Consequently, everyone who falls into the hands of the FSB will say whatever suits the FSB, whatever they want to hear.

Question: Does it follow from this that all of these testimonies are fabricated and forcibly beaten out of the suspects?

Answer: Of course. This is no secret to anyone who has fallen into the FSB’s hands even once or has come up against this system in at least some way.

Question: Are you afraid for your life? Are you not afraid of falling into the hands of the security services?

Answer: Of course, I do not rule it out. I know that the security services are offering a large reward to have me eliminated.

Question: Is it a question of elimination?

Answer: For the security services it is only a question of elimination. That is, it is not in their interest to take me alive, because I will talk. But I cannot rule out that the same thing could happen to me as to [Dekkushev]. I will say whatever they want to hear from me, even if by my words I am signing my own death sentence. The truth is what I am saying now, while I am free and not in their hands.

Question: So you cannot guarantee that if you are caught you will not give false testimony against yourself?

Answer: Of course not. If I end up in their hands, in the hands of the FSB, I will not be saying what I am saying now, I will be saying what they want.

Question: Well if Beria was unable to resist these tortures I think there are probably not many who could stand up against the FSB. And they have many ways of beating information out of you.

Answer: Of course.

Correspondent: Thank you for agreeing to give us an interview. Thank you very much. We hope that this interview of yours will cast light on those who committed this crime and those who ordered it.

Answer: I very much hope so too.

According to the FSB, Gochiyaev is our Osama bin Laden, the organizer of the September 1999 terrorist attacks in Russia. More than thirteen years have passed since September 1999. Gochiyaev is still on the federal wanted list and at-large. There is something unfinished in this story. What is odd is not that Gochiyaev has not been killed or caught, but that during the last thirteen years very many others have been killed or caught, although, according to the FSB, they were not the "bin Ladens" responsible for the September terrorist attacks.

The incidents described below should remind readers of the amount of blood that has been spilled even as Gochiyaev has remained untouched.

In 2002, Khattab was poisoned. In the same year, T. Batchayev was killed. Yu. Krymshamkhalov and A. Dekkushev, who participated in the organization of the September 1999 terrorist attacks along with Batchayev, were arrested in Georgia and sent to Moscow.

On February 13, 2004, Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, former acting president of Chechnya, was killed when a bomb exploded in his car. The murder took place in Doha, the capital of Qatar. The operation was planned and carried out by the Chief Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (GRU). Two Russian officers who planted the car bomb were arrested. On June 30, a Qatar court gave the two GRU officers a life sentence; on December 24, 2004, however, both were sent back to Russia. Thereafter, all murders of Chechens abroad were carried out by a special unit of mercenary killers, organized with the FSB's consent on the orders from Ramzan Kadyrov, the current Chechen president. Directly in charge of operations was Shaa Turlayev, an advisor to President Kadyrov.  Turlayev had gone over to the Russian side even though he had once served as the head of security for Aslan Maskhadov.

In March 2005, Maskhadov, the secessionist president of Chechnya, was killed there.

On October 7, 2006, Anna Politkovskaya, a well-known reporter and a personal enemy of Kadyrov, was killed in Moscow.

On November 1, 2006, former FSB Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Litvinenko, who was involved in investigating the September 1999 terrorist attacks, was poisoned in London. Litvinenko died on November 23.

In November 2006, Movladi Baysarov, former commander of "Gorets," a special fighting unit of the FSB's North Caucasus Operational Directorate, was killed on Leninsky Avenue in Moscow.

On September 6, 2008, in Istanbul, Gadzhi (Gazi) Edilsultanov, a former Chechen field commander who had come to Turkey in 2004, was killed with two shots to the head.

On September 24, 2008, on the Smolensk Embankment in Moscow, not far from the White House [the headquarters of the Russian government], Ruslan Yamadayev, former Duma deputy and recipient of the Hero of the Russian Federation award, was killed while on his way from the Kremlin. When his Mercedes stopped at a traffic light, the car was approached by a man who shot Yamadayev through the window with a submachine gun. With Yamadayev in the vehicle was Sergey Kyuzin, retired Colonel General and former military commandant of Chechnya, who was gravely wounded. The individuals suspected of carrying out the attack were detained in Moscow on April 7, 2009, according to Russian law enforcement. However, Ruslan Yamadayev's brother Isa believes that the murder had been organized by Adam Delimkhanov, deputy head of the Duma committee on the Affairs of the Federation and Regional Policy, and Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov's "right-hand man." Kadyrov suspected the Yamadayevs of involvement in the murder of his father, Chechen President Akhmed Kadyrov, who died in Grozny in a terrorist attack on May 9, 2004.

On December 9, 2008, Chechen general Islam Kanibekov was killed in Istanbul where he had been living since 2002.  He had been placed by Russia on the international wanted list for organizing three terrorist attacks and causing the deaths of 30 people.

On December 10, 2008, 38-year-old Islan (Urasul) Dzhanibekov, a former Chechen field commander, was killed in front of his wife and children near his house in the Asian part of Istanbul. Dzhanibekov, who had been living in Turkey for about six years, was shot three times in the head.

On January 13, 2009, in Vienna, two men attempted to kidnap 26-year-old Umar Israilov, President Ramzan Kadyrov's former bodyguard. When Israilov resisted, they shot him several times, and fled in a car. Shortly thereafter, the Austrian police arrested the assassins together with the driver of the vehicle. A fourth participant in the operation fled to Russia. Austrian investigators believe that, in addition to Kadyrov's men, officials from the Russian diplomatic corps in Austria were involved in the operation.

On February 26, 2009, Ali Osayev, [leading Chechen separatist] Doku Umarov's representative in Turkey, was killed in Istanbul. He had been living in Turkey since 2000. All of the killings in Istanbul were carried out using the same weapon­: double-barreled, nonautomatic SME Groza pistol with a silencer, the type of gun used by Russian special forces. In the opinion of the Turkish police, all of the Istanbul killings were planned by the FSB.

In March 2009, the Norwegian press reported that Kadyrov had given orders to kill Magomed Ocherkhadzhi, a Chechen refugee residing in Norway. The source for this information was the "repentant killer" Ruslan (Aslan) Khalidov, the nephew of Shaa Turlayev.

On March 28, 2009, Sulim Yamadayev, was killed with a shot to the head at close range in the underground parking garage of a residential complex in Dubai, where he had been living for four months. (The victim was the brother of Ruslan Yamadayev, decorated Hero of the Russian Federation, and former commander of the GRU's Vostok Battalion, who had been removed from this post on orders from the Chechen president in May 2008.) The Dubai police has officially stated that they considered this killing to be organized by Adam Delimkhanov, a former deputy prime minister of Chechnya in charge of the security services. Seven people were arrested in the UAE on suspicion of involvement in this killing; ultimately, only two of them remained under arrest. Four others, including Delimkhanov, were placed on the international wanted list. This killing was also carried out using the Groza pistol.

On July 28, 2009, in Moscow, a failed assassination attempt took place against Isa Yamadayev (Sulim’s brother), organized on orders from Chechen President Kadyrov.

On November 25, 2009, Viszan Abdurakhmanov, a former Chechen field commander who had been declared an "enemy of the president of the Chechen Republic," was killed in Baku (this was not the first killing of a highly-placed Chechen in Azerbaijan).

On September 13, 2011, in Istanbul, three more Chechens were killed in broad daylight by a group of killers who, in the opinion of the Turkish police, were working for the Russian government.

The list given here is far from complete. Only the most high-profile killings have been mentioned. This, then, is the general background against which Achimez Gochiyaev, the "Russian bin Laden," goes on living somewhere (it is not known where), untouched, unnoticed, and unsought by anyone—neither by the Russian FSB nor by the killers in Kadyrov's service—despite being on the federal wanted list. May one assume that he is not being hunted by Russia's security services because they are well aware of the fact that Gochiyaev had no connection to the terrorist attacks of September 1999?