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Published in Stream:
Day 907: August 12, 2016
Press by
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Russian FSB Names Third Suspect In Alleged Terror Plot In Crimea, Releases Additional Details About Border Incident
6 years
More Russian Military Movements In Occupied Crimea
A source in the Federal Security Service (FSB) has told the state news agency RIA Novosti about a third detainee following the alleged Crimean border clashes that reportedly led to the death of an FSB agent and a soldier.
He is Ridvan Suleimanov, and his confession is already being shown on the state TV channel Rossiya-24.

Suleimanov, also identified by his call sign as "Yusif," was said to plan to bring mock-ups of bombs such as bottles and cell phones with attached wires, timers and pieces of soap to the Simferopol airport and train stations. Suleimanov could be a Crimean Tatar judging by his name, but he does not seem to be the same person as available social media pages with this name.

Suleimanov confessed to allegedly working for a Ukrainian military intelligence officer named "Pavel Nikolayevich" and found four sites for placing bombs. On TV, he appears to speak calmly and does not appear to have any cuts or bruises like the other detainee, Yevhen Panov, who was put on TV yesterday.

Televised confessions of suspects is a practice heavily frowned upon by many, as suspects may be more likely to carefully choose their words, or even their entire stories, to please their captors. As such, Suleimanov a statement, which we could assumed was made under coercion, has been translated by The Interpreter. The statement was broken up into parts throughout the broadcast -- we have placed them consecutively:

"On July 30 I headed to the Simferopol Airport where I got in touch with Pavel Nikolayevich and said I was in place and that the placement had gone successfully.

I heard what put me in shock. That I, Amir Karimov, together with my brothers were moving from small to big jihad. Exactly at 12:00 we were to blow up the central airport of the city of Simferopol and also the central train stations of Simferopol. Yalta and Sevastopol and the Kerch ferry.

After that I went right near the airport in order to observe the actions of law-enforcement agencies.

Pavel Nikolayevich told me that I should collect military information on the territory of Crimea.

If on Vkontakte or Odnoklsassniki unknown persons would write me and say the main word 'Chicago,' that would mean that person was from him and assignments might come from him.

I was also supposed to make contact with him every two or three days and write either a plus or an 'ok' which would mean that everything was fine with me."
The narrator said Yusif and Suleimanov were to call in fake bomb threats to the police and distract from the others in the group committing actual sabotage by laying bombs near tourist facilities.

Rossiya-1 showed footage of a beach in Armyansk where the FSB agent was said to be killed. They said 20 already-assembled bombs were discovered at the site.

Yevhen Panov was shown again making his confession; the narrator gave his call sign as "Yudzhen" (Eugene).

Next, another detainee reported yesterday, Andrei Zakhtey, in an American t-shirt, was shown making a confession.

Zakhtey confessed, again presumably under coercion:

"It [the battle] was in the area of the cemetery. And there we were supposed to meet, I was supposed to pick up four people with the load with which they came. I directly fulfilled the orders of the military intelligence of Ukraine."

More details were provided about the alleged incidents.

In the second one, the saboteurs were said to fire on the checkpoint called Turetsky Val [Turkish Rampart] from the Ad [Hell] peninsula, and were reportedly covered by tanks and BMPs in the Ukrainian Army. This incident was supposed to distract from the mission of the first group.

Each person was in a cell that didn't necessarily know the names or assignments of the people in other cells, said Rossiya-1.

One of the facilities to be targeted was the Krymsky Titan chemical plant, where Dmitry Firtash is the majority shareholder, as well as the helicopter pad in Dzhankoy.

Marlen Aliyev, the lead engineer of the Dzhankoy Channel, identified one of the saboteurs, it was not clear in what context.

Once again there was lack of clarify about exactly how many people were detained, and what their names and occupations are. Rossiya-24 said there were "several more" besides the three mentioned.

As Novaya Gazeta's Valery Shiryayev reports, while a soldier in the Russian Army was supposedly killed in this border clash, the Defense Ministry has had nothing to say and refuses to comment, sending all inquiries to the FSB. The Defense Ministry supposedly took part in some operation, but Shiryayev believes the story given so far is not credible.

The FSB has only had carefully leaked stories in some loyal papers.

There was some kind of shooting incident -- there are the reports of a number of eyewitnesses who were waiting in line at the Armyansk checkpoint. But nothing more has been confirmed independently.

Shiryayev notes that not a single source has been able to confirm the FSB's story:

Not a single source confirmed the organized leaks from the FSB to the press that on the Russian side, two people really were killed. There are no facts and circumstances, even indirectly proving that this is true. 

The very fact of the losses doesn't make the organizers of the counter-intelligence operation look good; the military usually try to hid losses. But now in international politics, the death of soldiers on one's own territory really could be an effective instrument of pressure. Therefore, until the appearance of a presidential decree about the awarding of those killed in the course of the operation, I must consider this tragic fact unproved.

The Ukrainian news site Leviy Bereg (LB) has a completely different version of the incidents based on its sources.

They say there were two incidents; the first, on the night of August 6-7, involved Russian soldiers serving near the Armyansk checkpoint who opened fire on their own Russian border guards in Russian-occupied Crimea, who had sailed up to them on speedboats. The border guards at the checkpoint then fired back. As a result, one border guard was killed and four people were wounded (one soldier and three border guards). The border guards are part of the FSB; hence the story of one FSB officer killed.

Then on the night of August 7-8, Russian soldiers once again opened fire at the Armyansk checkpoint, this time on a civilian automobile headed toward Kherson Region. According to this version of the story, five Russian soldiers stopped the car of Khafiz Mukhamadov, a 23-year-old resident of the village of Suvorovo. With him in the car was his 20-year-old girlfriend. They were headed to visit relatives in Krestovka in the Chaplyn District in Kherson Region. According to sources, the soldiers, who were intoxicated, demanded that the young people supply more documents to prove their identity besides their passports. But Mukhamadov asked who were they to demand this, and refused to show them anything more.

An argument broke out, the soldiers fired on the car and after the two passengers tried to run away, the soldiers fired on them as well. Six bullets struck Mukhamadov, and his girlfriend was lightly wounded. When the soldiers realized what they had done, they fled, but three of them were later detained. 

Mukhamadov is alive and came out of a coma yesterday and is in the city of Krasnoy in the hospital, under armed guard, according to LB's sources.

Local authorities claimed Mukhamadov was carrying explosives which is why he was shot. When a group of local residents began to gather apparently to ask questions, police dispersed them.

All the checkpoints were closed August 7 supposedly due to a shootout, according to eyewitnesses who heard this claim and also heard gunfire. LB's sources say that the incident involving Russian soldiers misbehaving accounts for everything in the FSB's story.

While it is understandable is that the FSB might wish to conceal such examples of disorder in the ranks, it's not clear why they would then arrest Ukrainians in connection with the incident.

So far, the FSB only says that it has arrested residents of Crimea and Russian citizens, but neither the number or the names have been released.

The narrative woven so far makes for a good morality tale from the perspective of the Kremlin: a Crimean Tatar, a patriotic Ukrainian activist and former volunteer fighter, and a Russian involved in cross-border business with Ukraine -- all the kinds of people Putin wishes to discourage. 

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick