DATE=3/22/2000 TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT TITLE=RUSSIA ELECTION / BOMBINGS NUMBER=5-45981 BYLINE=PETER HEINLEIN DATELINE=MOSCOW CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: Russia's presidential election campaign, now in its final days, has largely been a contest without issues. V-O-A Moscow correspondent Peter Heinlein reports, however, that there is one troubling issue that refuses to go away. TEXT: /// SFX of music, fade and hold under to /// Russia's independent television channel, N-T-V, is set to broadcast a program this Friday titled "Independent Investigations." The segment examines allegations that the F-S-B, the main successor to the Soviet K-G- B, covered up its role in an attempted apartment complex bombing last September. The incident occurred in the city of Ryazan, southeast of Moscow, just days after four other apartment building bombs killed nearly 300 people. This is how the N-T-V program begins. /// SFX of announcer, then fade to voice- over /// Place: Ryazan. Time: September, 1999. The country is on the brink of declaring martial law. Terrorist bombings in Buinaksk, Moscow and Volgodonsk. Then, newspapers report another sensation. Another terrorist act planned in Ryazan is miraculously prevented. Police are congratulating themselves when the chief of the F-S-B suddenly says the explosives in Ryazan were placed there by his agents. /// fade under and out to /// On a segment of the N-T-V program previewed by the Voice of America, F-S-B chief Nikolai Patrushev explains that the Ryazan incident was simply a routine preparedness drill that went wrong. /// Patrushev act in Russian, then fade to /// He says, "This was not a bomb. The exercise may not have been carried out well, but it was only a test, and the so-called explosive was only sacks of sugar." But Andrei Stolyarov, producer of the "Independent Investigations" program, says most people in Ryazan think the F-S-B is covering up the truth. /// Stolyarov act in Russian, then fade to /// Mr. Stolyarov says, "The majority of the people who are not professionals think that it was a real bomb." Several independent experts agree. Moscow's "Novaya Gazeta" newspaper interviewed the explosives specialist who tested the sacks of powder found in the Ryazan apartment building. The tests indicated the material was Hexagen, the same explosive used in the earlier apartment blasts. The F-S-B, however, disputes the accuracy of that test. "Novaya Gazeta" investigative reporter Pavel Voloshin says the police officer who discovered the sacks of hexagen also confirmed that the detonating device was genuine. Mr. Voloshin says he uncovered further disturbing evidence. /// Voloshin act in Russian, then fade to /// He says, he interviewed a soldier at a military base near Ryazan who said he had been assigned to guard sacks marked "sugar." But he became suspicious, and took a sample to a military commander schooled in explosives who said it was definitely hexagen. Coming just days before Sunday's elections, the allegations -- if proven -- could have a devastating effect on the campaign of Acting President Vladimir Putin. Before being appointed prime minister last August, Mr. Putin was head of the F-S-B. Several of Mr. Putin's opponents have tried to raise the issue. Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov said there was growing evidence the apartment bombings were staged to justify the military offensive in Chechnya, which in turn catapulted Mr. Putin to his position as Russia's most popular politician. /// Opt /// The Communists joined the Yabloko Party - led by another presidential contender, Grigory Yavlinsky - in backing a parliamentary resolution last week calling for an official investigation of the latest revelations. But the resolution was narrowly defeated when Mr. Putin's supporters voted against. /// End Opt /// In a clear sign of concern about the potential of a scandal just before election day, the state-run O-R-T television channel Wednesday accused independent media of dirty campaign tactics. /// ORT announcer act, then under to /// The announcer says "N-T-V and Novaya Gazeta are preparing a provocation against the army and the F-S- B." The state-run station charged that N-T-V journalists were attempting to pressure Ryazan residents to take legal action against the secret police agency. Novaya Gazeta reporter Voloshin says authorities have assured him that a further investigation will be held into the allegations contained in his articles. He notes, however, that the probe will not begin until after the election, and will be carried out by the F- S-B. (Signed) NEB/PFH/GE/JP 22-Mar-2000 14:24 PM EDT (22-Mar-2000 1924 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .