New reign of terror in Russia

September 20, 1999

Here is an excerpt of an editorial from the Boston Globe, which was published Wednesday.

NO perpetrator has been caught and there have been no plausible claims of responsibility for the bomb blasts that killed nearly 300 people sleeping in their apartments in Russia during the past two weeks, but there is no mistaking the traumatic effects of this apparent terrorist campaign.

The Russian public's demand for security would be the same almost anywhere in the world. The corrupt and racist response from the authorities defines the particular qualities of Russia's current breakdown.

In the streets and subways of Moscow, anybody with dark skin risks being arrested or extorted for bribes by the police. The premise of this hunt for suspicious characters from the Caucasus is that the bombs were planted by terrorists from the rebellious region of Chechnya.

Whether this assumption proves sound or not, it illuminates an anxiety that the Russian federation may be losing parts of its territory at the same time the banditry of Chechnya is brought home to Moscow and other Russian cities.

All the law-and-order reassurances issuing from the Kremlin or from presidential aspirant Yuri Luzhkov, the powerful mayor of Moscow, cannot dissuade endangered Russians from feeling that they are being propelled ceaselessly from one calamity to the next.

They lost their status as a great power, their economic assets have fallen into the hands of thieves, and now their state cannot even protect them when they are sleeping in their own beds.

The conspiracy theories swirling about Moscow -- including the one that holds that the bombings are a government provocation to justify a state of emergency and cancellation of upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections -- may have no validity, but they do illustrate how complete is the population's disillusionment with Boris Yeltsin's government and his inner circle.

The great danger for Russia and its well-wishers is that the bombings may demolish Russia's experiment with a liberal democratic state and usher in the reign of a new authoritarian order.

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