RFE/RL: Relatives Mark Third Beslan Anniversary [+ a comment]
- Relatives Mark Third Beslan Anniversary
September 1, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Russia today marks the third anniversary
of the Beslan hostage tragedy in which more than 330 people were killed,
most of them children.
But as bells tolled and tears fell, many of the victims' relatives
expressed anger at the authorities for what they believe was a botched
operation and an incomplete investigation.
Thousands of people gathered for a memorial service in Beslan to mark
the day when, exactly three years ago, armed militants herded more than
1,000 parents, children, and teachers into the gymnasium of Beslan's
School Number One. The hostage-takers were demanding that Russia
withdraw its troops from neighboring Chechnya.
The siege last three days and ended in a fierce battle between Russian
security forces and militants that killed some 330 hostages, more than
half of them children.
Mourners today laid flowers and lit candles under the portraits of
victims that line the walls of the charred gymnasium.
No senior government official was in attendance.
Russian President Vladimir Putin paid a brief homage to the Beslan
victims during a visit to a school in the southern city of Astrakhan.
"We cannot forget about these children who will never finish school. I
am referring to the tragic events in Beslan. Today we must think about
this too. But whatever happened, life nonetheless goes on both in the
country and in the world," Putin said.
In Beslan, however, time has failed to heal the emotional wounds, and
the anniversary of the siege is marked by anger.
Rita Sedakova, a member of the Beslan Mothers Committee support group,
lost her daughter in the siege.
"Our president, our ministers and generals, they're all still in their
posts. We, mothers, are the ones who have been punished," Sedakova told
RFE/RL's Russian Service. "After all we have endured, especially those
mothers who were in the gymnasium and went through all of this
physically, where are we supposed to find the strength to live on?"
Families of the victims accuse the government of seeking to cover up
what they believe was a botched rescue operation.
They are angry that only one person has been brought to justice for the
massacre -- Nurpashi Kulayev, who authorities claim is the only
surviving hostage taker.
Three local policemen were found guilty of negligence in the run-up to
the siege but were granted amnesty earlier this year.
Three years on, the hostage tragedy is still generating more questions
Ella Kesayeva lost two nephews in the siege and questions why no one in
the security forces was punished.
"Why is there no objective investigation? Why is the evidence we gather
and give to the prosecutor's office, to investigators, to courts, simply
ignored? In Beslan, law-enforcement agencies, the army, special services
-- those whose duty it is to rescue, defend, and protect people in this
country -- abused their power. Instead of rescuing people, they used
tanks and flame-throwers," Kesayeva said.
Officials blame the hostage takers for starting the battle in which most
hostages were killed by setting off a bomb inside the school. Aleksandr
Torshin, the head of an official parliamentary commission investigating
the events, has confirmed this version.
But many survivors and witnesses accuse soldiers of provoking the
massacre by firing a rocket-propelled grenade at the school, causing the
roof to collapse and sparking a fierce blaze. Some also say they saw
tanks fire on the school. (*)
State Duma speaker Boris Gryzlov, who laid flowers in the school today,
vowed a thorough investigation.
Dmitry Kozak, the presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District,
told relatives of victims in Beslan that the number of terror attacks in
Russia has decreased by 40 percent over the past three years.
But this is unlikely to ease the grief of those who lost their
loved-ones in the massacre.
Angry posters calling for the culprits to be called to account have been
hung on the walls of ruins of School Number One. One reads: "Accomplices
of terrorists are terrorists themselves." Another says "The authorities
cannot be forgiven for allowing Beslan."
(RFE/RL's Russian Service contributed to this report)
* As I've said here many times before, at least one tank approaching the
school and firing was reported *live* on SkyNews. Furthermore, they
didn't just fire one grenade but many, and most likely also missiles at
the roof from a helicopter. Today I heard an interview with a local
explosives expert (they didn't give his name) on German public service
NDR Info news radio. He said that the explosion of the alleged bomb
inside the school building couldn't have created the hole in the wall,
that would need at least the power of a grenade fired from a grenade
discharger. Besides that, the impact came from the outside and not from
the inside [which everyone can see if you look at the published images
of the hole, N.S.]. He also stated that the direction of the impact can
be established from the form of the hole, which shows that the grenade
was fired from the roof of an adjacent apartment building [the very same
building on the roof of which local inhabitants (!) found used barrels
of grenade dischargers, among them also several of a type that fired FAE
charges (fuel-air-explosives)]. All these things were clear to anyone
who followed the live reporting on various TV channels on that day.
It's really amazing that these established facts - some of which, like
the FAEs, were analyzed publicly and officially in two court cases -
still appear as a kind of "hearsay" in the media reports. But on the
other hand, if the media acknowledged the facts, they would have to draw
the logical conclusion, something they are afraid of saying aloud.
Namely, that the Russian state is in the hands of a terrorist