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Last Updated: Monday, 12 January, 2004, 16:03 GMT
Russia sentences bomb suspects
Apartment blast in 1999
Russia sent its troops to Chechnya within weeks after the blasts
A Russian court has sentenced two men to life in prison for their involvement in a series of apartment block bombings in Moscow and Volgodonsk in 1999.

Yusuf Krymshamkhalov and Adam Dekkushev were convicted of murder and terrorism in relation to the attacks, which killed 246 people and injured 1,000.

Prosecutors said they carried out the attacks on the order of Chechen rebels.

But critics said Russian security services planned the attacks to justify a new military campaign in Chechnya.

The two-month trial was closed to the public, but reporters were let in to hear the final verdict.

Russian media reports quoted the legal counsel of the two suspects as saying that they had partially admitted to their guilt.

But one of them, Yusuf Krymshamkhalov, said that the conviction was based on "lies", according to the AP news agency.

Russian authorities say another six suspects were killed in Chechnya, and two remain at large.

Krymshamkhalov and Dekkushev were both residents of the southern republic of Karachayevo-Cherkessia, near Chechnya.

Suspicious circumstances

A BBC regional analyst Steven Eke says that some Russians never believed the theory that Chechens were responsible

The major reason for this, he says, is an incident that took place less than a week after the bombings, when an explosive device was apparently found in the basement of an apartment block in the central Russian city of Ryazan.

The authorities initially announced that they had prevented another major bombing, but later changed their mind, saying the device was actually only an imitation bomb, planted to test the security service's readiness.

Officials who questioned this official account of events were imprisoned or sought political asylum in London.

The prominent reformist MP Sergei Yushenkov, who was a member of an independent commission investigating the bombings, was shot dead last year.

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