If a week is a long time in politics, 23 years in history is an age. To put it in perspective, add 23 years to 1918, the year the Great War ended, and that takes us to 1941. From the finale of one catastrophic war to well into another.

But there is always a connecting thread. In 1999 the blowing-up of an apartment block in a town close to Moscow precipitated the second Chechnya war. It enabled Vladimir Putin to rise to power as the anointed successor of Boris Yeltsin, by that time a drunken and discredited shadow of his former self.

The atrocity changed the game. And there is compelling evidence that the brain behind this false flag operation belonged to Vladimir Putin, Yeltsin’s presidential candidate in waiting.

The Ryazan bombing killed 200 innocent Russian civilians. The outrage was genuine, deep and predictable.

David Satter, who covered Russia for many years before his expulsion, told a human rights conference in 2018: “You had to be deaf, dumb, and blind not to see what was going on. And in particular, you had to be wilfully ignorant if you didn’t see the implications of the Ryazan incident in which three FSB agents were arrested for putting a fifth bomb in a building.”

Of course, the arrests were cloaked in deniability. It was claimed the fifth, unexploded bomb, was part of a training exercise. However implausible that might have been, that wasn’t enough to derail the narrative that Chechen terrorists had done it.

Now, with a disastrous European war looming, it may or may not be the case that Putin will try the same ruse again.

At the end of this week the US State Department was pushing the narrative of an imminent Russian false flag op with a Ukrainian attack on Russian separatists, complete with planted corpses. This may or not have a basis in fact. But it worked for the killer in the Kremlin once, so why not use it again?

Jeff Daniels worked as a journalist in central and Eastern Europe from 1992 until 2008

PHOTO: The Ryazan apartment building destroyed in the blast of suspicious origin

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