9-99/Ryazan incident

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Event.png "Terror drill"
9-99/Ryazan incident (false flag attack,  mid-level deep event) Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Ryazan incident.jpg
The Ryazan bomb detonator
Date22 September 1999 - 23 September 1999
LocationRyazan,  Russia
TypeTime bombings
Interest ofKovalev commission
DescriptionMoscow FSB officers discovered wiring up what looked like a bomb in the basement of a building by night. Local FSB unaware. Claimed to be a terror drill but no documentation was presented. Instead documents were sealed and discussion of it prohibited in the Duma.

The Ryazan incident marked the end of the Russian apartment bombings‎. On 22 September 1999 a time bomb was found in the basement of an apartment building in the Russian city of Ryazan. It was planted by 3 people who drove a car with a Moscow licence plate. After some confusion the Moscow FSB declared that it had been a "terror drill", but the local FSB denied all knowledge (echoing the French authorities' response to the Saumur Daesh Cell 20 years later). This incident has been cited by commentators such as Alexander Litvinenko as strong evidence that the 9/99 bombings were a false flag attack. In spite of moves to launch an inquiry, the Russian parliament sealed all evidence about the case. The independent Kovalev commission was unable to conclude due to official stonewalling and the sudden deaths of some of its members.


At 8:30 P.M. on 22 September, 1999, a resident of an apartment building in the city of Ryazan noticed two suspicious men who carried sacks into the basement from a car with a Moscow license plate.[1][2][3] He alerted the police, but by the time they arrived the car and the men were gone. The policemen found three 50 kg sacks of white powder in the basement. A detonator and a timing device were attached and armed. The timer was set to 5:30 AM.[4]

Phonecall evidence

Later, the same evening, a telephone service employee in Ryazan tapped into long distance phone conversations and managed to detect a talk in which an out-of-town person suggested to others that they "split up" and "make your own way out". That person's number was traced to a telephone exchange unit serving FSB offices.[5] When arrested, the detainees produced FSB identification cards. They were soon released on orders from Moscow.[6][7]


Yuri Tkachenko, the head of the local bomb squad, disconnected the detonator and the timer and tested the three sacks of white substance with a "MO-2" gas analyser. The device detected traces of RDX, the military explosive used in all previous bombings.[8] At 1:30 A.M. on 23 September, the explosive engineers took a bit of substance from the suspicious-looking sacks to a firing ground located some kilometres away from Ryazan for testing.[9] During the substance tests at that area they tried to explode it by means of a detonator, but their efforts failed, the substance was not detonated, and the explosion did not occur.[10][11][10][12]

Failed seige

Police and rescue vehicles converged from different parts of the city, and 30,000 residents were evacuated from the area. 1,200 local police officers armed with automatic weapons set up roadblocks on highways around the city and started patrolling railroad stations and airports to catch whoever had planted the device.


At 5am Radio Rossiya reported about the attempted bombing noting that the bomb was set up to go off at 5:30am. In the morning, "Ryazan resembled a city under siege". Composite sketches of three suspected terrorists, two men and a woman, were posted everywhere in the city and shown on TV. At 8:00am. Russian television reported the attempt to blow out the building in Ryzan and identified the explosive used in the bomb as RDX.[13] Vladimir Rushailo announced later that police prevented a terrorist act. A news block at 4 p.m. reported that the explosives failed to detonate during their testing outside the city[14][11][10][12][15]


FSB defector Alexander Litvinenko and Boris Berezovsky blame the apartment bombings on the FSB. Berezovsky made a film to support this counter narrative. Litvinenko was poisoned probably by polonium, while Berezovsky was found hanged in UK in March 2013.


In Moscow on September 23rd the FSB announced that a "terrorist action" in Ryazan had been narrowly averted, and the next day Acting President ordered the Russian Army to invade Chechenya and eliminate the terrorists' bases.[16]

Official denial

On 24 September, FSB director Nikolai Patrushev announced that the exercise was carried out as a terror drill to test responses after the earlier blasts[17], that the white powder was not an explosive, but merely sugar.[16]

Official counter-denial

The Ryazan FSB "reacted with fury" and issued a statement saying:[18]

This announcement came as a surprise to us and appeared at the moment when the ...FSB had identified the places of residence in Ryazan of those involved in planting the explosive device and was prepared to detain them.

Sealing of evidence

The evidence from the case, including the bags and detonator, was sealed and further investigation curtailed[When?] after pro-Putin MPs blocked the efforts of Duma MPs to secure an inquiry.[19]



9-99/Ryazan incidentMoscow FSB officers discovered wiring up what looked like a bomb in the basement of a building by night. Local FSB unaware. Claimed to be a terror drill but no documentation was presented. Instead documents were sealed and discussion of it prohibited in the Duma.
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  1. Fears of Bombing Turn to Doubts for Some in Russia, Maura Reynolds, Los Angeles Times, 15 January 2000
  2. Did Alexei stumble across Russian agents planting a bomb to justify Chechen war?, Helen Womack, The Independent, 27 January 2000
  3. The Fifth Bomb: Did Putin's Secret Police Bomb Moscow in a Deadly Black Operation?, John Sweeney, Cryptome, 24 November 2000
  4. Goldfarb & Litvinenko 2007
  5. Russia's terrorist bombings, WorldNetDaily, 27 January 2000
  6. The Shadow of Ryazan: Is Putin’s government legitimate?, National Review Online, 30 April 2002
  7. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/456848.stm
  8. Satter 2003, p. 65
  9. Таймер остановили за семь часов до взрыва: Теракт предотвратил водитель автобуса, Sergey Topol, Nadezhda Kurbacheva, Kommersant, 24 September 1999
  10. a b c old.russ.ru/politics/news/1999/09/23.htm
  11. a b terror1999.narod.ru/ryazan/press/ort230999.html
  12. a b http://www.chas-daily.com/win/1999/09/24/v_42.html
  13. (in Russian) ORT newscast on 23.09.99, at 09:00
  14. kommersant.ru/doc.aspx?DocsID=226161
  15. http://www.lenta.ru/russia/1999/09/23/ryazan/
  16. a b http://www.edwardjayepstein.com/question_putin.htm
  17. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E00EFD8163DF932A35751C0A9649C8B63
  18. Edward Lucas, The New Cold War: Putin's Russia and the Threat to the West , Palgrave Macmillan (19 February 2008), ISBN 0-230-60612-1, page 25
  19. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2000/mar/24/russia.comment