(THE VICTIMS OF BESLAN)
The National-Bolsheviks have declared Putin responsible for Beslan’s victims. This is how German journalists from Spiegel, authors of the book “01.09. Beslan’s File” saw the very beginning of the Beslan tragedy. I will cite the very beginning of the foreword. “Early in the morning of September 1st 2004 a group of thirty-one men and two women came out of a wood on Sunjen Ridge and went their way. Armed with grenade-throwers, guns, hand grenades, sniper rifles and automatic guns they went to seize School Number One in Beslan, a town in the neighboring North Ossetia. /…/ During several days the terrorists molested, according to official data, 1120 hostages, 331 of whom died, including 186 children, from babies to first grade students. 783 were wounded and among them there is also a lot of children. Beslan, until then an idyllic town on the background of the Caucasus Ridge became the embodiment of grief, a town condemned to live with an everlasting pain.
If a corresponding crime had happened in some German town or a French village or an American province, its cruel inhumanity would have become the subject of the media for months to come. And under the pressure of the public the authorities would have been forced to thoroughly investigate the crime and report about its results as soon as possible.
But not in Russia. But not on the Caucasus. Silencing and hushing up for generations have become part of the lifestyle here. They must protect the foreign sovereigns from claims and pretensions. Therefore it is extremely difficult here to carry out an investigation among those who were touched by this event.
Everything is interlinked on the North Caucasus. Everybody is linked with one another by either a deep friendship or a deep animosity. And the distances here are modest too. There is only one hundred km from Beslan in the Christian North Ossetia to Grozny in the Muslim Chechnya. And between them is squeezed the small and also Muslim Ingushetia. The countries are all dwarfish, surrounding Moscow like a necklace on a distance of 130 km from it. Here, near Caucasus’ Northern spurs, the former Soviet empire has broken to little pieces, which today’s Russia doesn’t have the forces to put back together. In the contrary: the war in Chechnya is shattering the region and allows the separatist movements here and there to gain strength. In the mountains and forests of Chechnya and Ingushetia Allah’s Muslim warriors are getting ready. And the terrorist attack on Beslan was an attempt to draw North Ossetia, a Christian republic, for centuries faithful to Moscow, into war.
The Russian official bodies are slowing down as they can the flow of information about the reasons and the analysis of the events. The art of disinformation has flourished again since the Soviet times. For instance the information that the Prosecutor General, the special services, the army and police officials share with the public are first of all reflecting their desire to hide their own neglect and miscalculations.
This neglect and mistakes are astounding. The destroyed building of School Number 1 was never investigated as the spot when the crime was committed like it was supposed to be according to the rules of criminalistics. Even the process of hostage taking itself was not sufficiently clarified by the officials; at least the public did not get such information. A lot is unclear with the tragic end itself, which was contributed to by the lack of professionalism of those who acted from the name of the State.”
In order to understand the Beslan tragedy, it is necessary to have at least the chronology of these first three days of September in Beslan. Here it is.
September 1st 2003. 9:08AM. The holiday in the yard of Beslan’s School Number 1 on Komintern Street began at nine o’clock. The school is big; it has 890 students and 57 teachers. This is a complex of buildings forming the letter E on the city map. And suddenly people in camouflage run in the schoolyard through the gates on Komintern Street. Most of them wear camouflage ski masks. Those without masks have beards. They gather the people through the gates to the gymnasium shooting in the air from their guns. In the gymnasium they order the hostages to sit on the floor and not to move. At the same time the people in camouflage start to mine the gymnasium.
10:17AM, same day. The first three motorcycle divisions start to move to Beslan from Ossetia’s capital Vladikavkaz. From 11:30 the school is surrounded by divisions of the 58th army.
11:05AM The militants pass a message through the hostage Larisa Mamitova, a doctor, in which they express their intention to negotiate only with the president of North Ossetia Dzasokhov, Ingushetia’s president Ziazikov and Dr. Roshal. (Later, one of the witnesses on the trial of Nurpashi Kulayev, the only surviving militant, will tell that the militants wanted to see Rushailo, executive secretary of the RF and not Roshal.) The terrorists gave their phone number 8-928-728-33-74, however the number did not respond. The terrorists did not write the last two numbers right. Mamitova gives the message and tells the Ossetian fighter who put his gun on the grass and took her message that there are 1300 hostages in the school. She returns inside.
At 4:05PM a hostage came out of the school again with a new message. The message contains the last name of a person, with which the militants would like to talk: the presidential adviser A. Aslakhanov. A phone number for contacts was written again: 8-928-728-33-47. With this number the negotiator, a lieutenant colonel of North Ossetia’s FSB managed to get in contact with the militants in the school. The militant called himself a suicide bomber and said that he blew up twenty hostages in one of the classes. The reason is that the terrorists were upset that they heard the first lie on television and radio: there are supposedly only 354 hostages. At the same time six hostages managed to escape during the second half of the day on September 1st. They were questioned about the situation in the school. It turned out that the hostages were distributed by groups and located in different parts of the school. Most of the people were in the gymnasium. In other parts of the school there were groups of one hundred people and above. The report of the Beslan police chief at 4:20PM of that day indicates: the number of hostages is over 700; the lists are being verified. According to the North Ossetian parliamentary commission (the text is cited in Novaya Gazeta, issue 64, 2005): “The next two days the official representatives of the headquarters, including its nominal leader, general V. A. Andreyev, told the media about 354 hostages. This deliberate lie, according to the numerous testimonies of the hostages, led to the growing aggression of the terrorists. And also became the cause of the execution of some male hostages, whose bodies were thrown out of the window of the literature office, from the second floor. (The suicide-bomber was talking about them when he said that he “blew up twenty hostages”. And it is to take them that four agents of the Ministry of Emergencies will arrive at 1 o’clock on September 3rd and the raid will begin.)
2:00PM. Beslan. Anti-crisis headquarters. In Beslan’s city hall. Actually, there are two headquarters in the same building. Or even several. One gets the impression that already the first day, in the first hours, all efforts were made to scatter responsibility and cover those who really gave the orders in Beslan. On the first day several structures from the FSB, the 58th army, and the ministry of Interior, the functionaries and North Ossetia executive power are formed. It is supposedly president Dzasokhov who manages all. But neither the site of dislocation is defined nor the actions are coordinated. On the second day of the terrorist act the general Andreyev, head of North Ossetia’s FSB, becomes the leader of the counter-terrorist operation (according to Torshin’s report, Putin personally appointed general Andreyev). About one day and a half was spent for the appointment of this “pointsman”.
2:27PM Mozdok. Airport. The FSB director Patrushev arrives from Moscow. However from Mozdok he does not go to the anti-crisis headquarters. Nobody will see him there in the next two days. Still, there are lots of high officials there in the headquarters. General Vasily Andreyev, president Dzasokhov, parliament speaker Taymuraz Mamsurov, State Duma deputies Rogozin and Markelov, deputy Prosecutor General Fredinsky. Later that day Patrushev’s deputies Pronichev and Anisimov arrive from Moscow, as well as the head of the FSB Center of special assignment general Alexander Tikhonov, commanding the groups Alpha and Vimpel. And also the FSB head of the South Federal District, general Kaloyev. (Notice that general Valery Andreyev commands his own bosses!) However in reality it is not chaos, as various journalists who investigated Beslan’s tragedy interpret it. The methodic of covering up responsibility is in play. Here is what Novaya Gazeta writes (issue 64, 2005): “At the same time, the witnesses who were present in the headquarters say that Moscow’s FSB agents and employees of the presidential administration created their own parallel headquarters, where neither Andreyev nor even Dzasokhov could go. The role of Pronichev and Anisimov in the administration of the Counter-terrorist headquarters is not clear to this day. The materials of the criminal case do not contain their interrogations as direct witnesses.”
But who are these representatives of the presidential administration? Here they are in the report of the North Ossetian parliamentary commission. I cite Novaya Gazeta again: “According to the North Ossetian commission it is the representatives of the federal center who bear responsibility for the deliberately false information about the hostages: the employee of the presidential administration, deputy press-secretary of the RF president Dmitry Peskov and the employee of Moscow’s State Broadcasting Company office Vasilyev. According to the testimony of the vice-speaker (of the Ossetian parliament) Kesayev on September 2nd he was called to the operational headquarters to talk about informing the population about the real quantity of hostages in the school. The Moscovites presented themselves as employees of the presidential administration’s information department and asked him not to disclose any information that contradicts the official version.” Actually, this is a criminal offense. But who cares. The North Ossetian commission turned out to be much more honest than Torshin’s commission.
Ossetia’s president Dzasokhov was finally interrogated. He “admits several times that in essence all the decisions in Beslan were made by Patrushev’s deputies: the FSB generals Pronichev, Anisimov and Tikhonov.” Pronichev, first deputy director of FSB, a general-colonel, already has the necessary experience of “liberating” hostages, in particular in the Theater Center on Dubrovka. With gas. When they killed 129 hostages, by official count. They killed them and thus liberated them.
The North Ossetian commission is convinced that the real leaders of the Counter-terrorist operation were high FSB officials. The commission harshly criticizes the fact that the criminal case does not contain the interrogations of the main participants of the counter-terrorist operation: generals Pronichev, Anisimov and Tikhonov and the FSB director Patrushev.
September 1st. Beslan. End of the day. The terrorists wait in vain. Their demands to bring Dzasokhov, Ziazikov, Aslakhanov and Roshal (rather Rushailo) were not executed, supposedly “because there was a real danger they might be killed”. Ziazikov, Ingushetia’s president spent the three days of the tragedy in Moscow’s President Hotel, supposedly it was Putin who “left him out of the game”. No signals come in from Putin’s advisor on North Caucasus. Also, according to the federal law about terrorism the demands of the militants about the withdrawal of troops from Chechnya cannot be subject to negotiations as they threaten the base of the constitutional order and the wholeness of the Russsian Federation.
Instead, the operational headquarters proposed the militants to exchange the hostages for the suspects arrested in Inhusgetia for the attack on Nazran. Ikarus buses were prepared in case the militants agree. (This is the data of Torshin’s federal parliamentary commission, so we better not trust it).
September 1st. Second half of the day. A “black widow”, a female suicide bomber detonates herself. Hostages and terrorists are wounded and killed. The “widow” herself is torn into pieces. Before this the hostages saw this woman arguing with other terrorists.
September 1st. 4:30PM. The literature office. Another seven male hostages were executed by the militants.
September 1st. After 8:00PM. The plane carrying Dr. Roshal lands in Vladikavkaz. After midnight Roshal is in the anti-crisis headquarters over his cellphone. He is told from the school: “If you try to arrive to the school alone we will shoot you. Only with the presidents of Ingushetia and North Ossetia. /…/ We don’t need you alone! You make twenty steps toward the school and you are a corpse.” Here Roshal’s mission ends. He was clearly confounded with Roshailo.
September 2nd. 9:30AM. Beslan. Anti-crisis headquarters. I cite the book “01.09. Beslan’s File” written by Spiegel journalists based on documental testimonies, I remind. “The ratio of forces in the anti-crisis headquarters changes to the FSB favor. Its vice-chief Pronichev and general Alexander Tikhonov, commanding the anti-terrorism groups Alpha and Vimpel discuss the possibilities of a raid. North Ossetian politicians heavily protest. They beg the FSB not to undertake anything.”
September 2nd. Noon. Beslan. Anti-crisis headquarters. They are waiting for Aslakhanov. He has not arrived to Beslan from Moscow yet. 27 hours passed since the beginning of the hostage taking. It takes two hours to fly from Moscow to Vladikavkaz. Where is Aslakhanov?
Instead, Ruslan Aushev, former Ingushetia’s president, an Afghanistan’s veteran appears near the headquarters. The brothers Gutzeriev who enjoy authority in the Caucasus also appear. Mikhail is a former vice-speaker of the State Duma (now he is Rosneft's director) and his brother Khamzan, Ingushetia’s retired Minister of Interior. Aushev is among Putin’s personal enemies. Neither the Gutzerievs nor Aushev are let inside the headquarters where Putin’s appointees are. From the moment he arrived Aushev has to call and direct the events standing in the yard of the headquarters.
September 2nd, second half of the day. Beslan. Anti-crisis headquarters. Vladimir Yakovlev, Putin’s proxy in Russia’s South, arrives. Thirty hours have passed from the beginning of the crisis. He enters the headquarters. During this time Aushev continues to negotiate with the terrorists on the phone. This is how it is dryly noted in the report of Torshin’s federal commission: “On September 2nd the terrorists have named the outlaw Aslan Makhadov as a possible negotiator. Dzasokhov and Aushev tried to contact him through Zakayev but Maskhadov did not answer.” That’s it. However much more is said differently in the report of North Ossetia’s commission. “The hope for a bloodless end was linked with the possible participation of A. Maskhadov in the release of the hostages. The witness A. Zakayev was questioned by the commission and he told that he learned about the real state of things in Beslan from his first phone conversation with R. Aushev on September 2nd 29 hours after the capture of the school. R. Aushev asked Zakayev about bringing A. Maskhadov to negotiate. From the second half of September 2nd to the first half of September 3rd Zakayev tried to reach Maskhadov through third persons. Maskhadov was ready to go to Beslan but on one condition: providing an unhindered pathway to the school. Zakayev doubted the possibility to create a pathway for Maskhadov and proposed instead his candidacy to participate in the negotiations with the militants. On September 3rd at noon Zakayev contacted Dzasokhov and confirmed his and Maskhadov’s agreement to take part in the negotiations. Dzasokhov asked two hours to resolve the technical questions and organize the negotiations. The next conversation between Dzasokhov and Zakayev was supposed to take place at 2 o’clock. /…/ The commission finds strange the fact that nobody from the operational headquarters attempted to contact Maskhadov in the first day of the school’s capture.”
September 2nd. 2:45PM. Aslambek Aslakhanov spoke with the terrorists on the phone and promised to personally inform Putin about their demands. The terrorists proposed Aslakhanov to come to the school with Aushev.
September 2nd. 3:30PM. School Number One. Aushev goes to the school. He crosses the yard, comes to the big door in the gymnasium, which opens as he enters. He stops on the doorway. He asks the capturers if they recognize him. They do. Aushev is alone, there is no Aslakhanov.
All the terrorists have put on masks for the visit. They film Aushev on video. They give Aushev a list of demands addressed to Putin by “Allah’s slave” Shamil Basayev. “The Colonel”, the terrorists’ leader, tells Aushev that the government can gather all the relatives of those who captured the school and execute them – this will not modify their resolutness to insist on their demands. They allow Aushev to take some hostages with him. He leaves the school with 11 women and 16 babies. The whole world sees the photo on which Aushev stands near his car with a naked baby on the car’s rear seat.
The list of the terrorists’ demands is analyzed in the anti-crisis headquarters. Their demands are the same: the withdrawal of the Russian troops from Chechnya.
September 2nd. Second half of the day. Beslan. Hospital. The direction is preparing beds by an order from Moscow. They can free 215 beds. If they call all the doctors from the district, there will be about two hundred people.
September 2nd. Second half of the day. Vladikavkaz. From the 710 beds, 350 are kept ready in case. There are two operation rooms; 70 doctors and 200 nurses were called.
The same day, second. Second half of the day. Vladikavkaz. The republican children’s hospital. The building is half unfinished. There are 820 beds. Of them 230 are made ready for Beslan’s victims. The patients whose state allows it are sent home. The direction keeps 7 operational brigades ready.
“Only on the second day of the capture of hostages there are 1045 beds ready in four hospitals in Beslan and Vladikavkaz. The orders to the directors of the hospitals arrived directly from Moscow, from the Health ministry. The same government that still speaks about 354 hostages in official statements at the same time makes sure that over thousand beds are made ready for the hostages,” the German journalists write in the book “01.09. Beslan’s File”. It should be added here that this is the same government that lies to its people today that the federals did not start the raid, that everything was the terrorists’ fault. But the terrorists would have benefited from stretching the time as much as possible! Each hour benefited them. And each hour of keeping the hostages damaged the president’s reputation personally.
September 2nd. Second half of the day. Anti-crisis headquarters. Roshal, whom nobody called, tries to convince the terrorists to make concessions by phone. They answer “No!” to everything.
The North Ossetian commission concludes: “ By the end of the second day nobody from the high federal officials, whose functions at least partly include the negotiation of the demands put forward by the militants, accepted to negotiate with the terrorists. /…/ By entrusting the negotiations to the regional functionaries, to the Special Forces, to a pediatrician as well as to M. Gurtziev and R. Aushev (S. Shoigu has personally asked him about it), the RF authorities have in essence distanced themselves from the responsibility and condemned the entire negotiation process to failure.”
September 2nd. Beslan. 4:30PM. The headquarters head Andreyev ordered Sobolev, the commander of the 58th army, to provide tanks and armored vehicles to the FSB special assignment center on their demand. At 5 o’clock Sobolev asked a tank division to Beslan. At 6:15PM the tanks arrived to Beslan. Viktor Sobolev, the commander of the 58th army also gave six armored vehicles to the FSB.
By midnight on September 2nd the speaker of North Ossetia’s parliament Mamsurov and the State Duma deputy Rogozin sketched the project of an agreement with the terrorists. The project is essentially about negotiations of the federal leadership with Maskhadov, the plan of an autonomy status for Chechnya and a gradual withdrawal of troops.
September 3rd. 7:30AM. Beslan. Anti-crisis headquarters. The negotiations with the terrorists lasted until 2 o’clock in the morning. The headquarters tried to obtain the transfer of medicaments, water and food to the school. “The Colonel”, leader of the terrorists, kept giving the same answer: “The hostages don’t need food or water. They have declared a hunger-strike to their government.” After long telephone conversations the Ingushetian businessman Gutzeriev, who gradually becomes the principal negotiator, manages to convince the terrorists that the corpses must be removed from the schoolyard and from Komintern Street. They have been laying there for almost two days on the sun and the rain.
September 3rd. 10:30AM. Beslan. The houses closest to the school are already evacuated. Most of them are still empty. However four commandos from the Alpha group appear in house number 37. They fix a machine-gun. Gradually other positions are occupied around the school.
September 3rd. 1:00PM. Beslan. A truck enters the school territory from Komintern Street. Two employees of the Ministry of Emergencies stand inside. The vehicle is moving slowly, almost crawling. The terrorists agreed that the corpses that have lain there for two days now must be removed from the schoolyard. The clock shows 1:01PM. Maybe 1:02. Maybe 1:03. An explosion is heard from the direction of the school, a powerful one. Than another and a third one 10-20 minutes later.
The report of Torshin’s federal commission says the following: “At 1:05PM two powerful explosions took place in the school. According to some hostages the terrorists were intoxicated. Possibly because of this they lost the ability to control the explosive device and an explosion ensued.” That is all. One gets the impression that the commission purposely skipped the most important question of Beslan’s tragedy: what is the nature of the explosions, after which began the raid that led to the deaths of 331 hostages? In other words, who is responsible for the deaths of 331 people, 186 of whom were children?
The North Ossetian parliamentary commission (I cite Novaya Gazeta, issue 64): “From the testimonies of hostages and witnesses the conclusion can be made that the explosions in the gymnasium were a surprise for the militants themselves. Also there are a lot of witnesses who say that the explosions in the gymnasium were provoked from outside. Also there is information that none of the closed chains linking the explosive devices have detonated in the gymnasium. There is information that after the explosions in the gymnasium, sappers of the 58th army could demine most of the device. In all there were fourteen self-made explosive devices and four antipersonnel mines. Eleven explosive devices were found and demined.” The commission points out the following: “Thanks to the law quality of the investigation made by the Prosecutor General’s office about the causes of the first explosions, only the testimonies of the hostages and witnesses can be trusted. The absence of a qualified expertise in the commission’s criminal case seem definitely strange and calls for many questions.” The commission considers the version about the cause-and-effect link between the use of flame-throwers (the flame-throwers, rather their tubes were presented to Torshin’s commission by the victims: the Committee of Beslan’s Mothers) and the first explosions in the gymnasium as the main one because the official version claiming that the bomb exploded automatically or accidentally because of the militants’ actions is not supported by any evidence. The Ossetian commission also points out that “no traces of hard drugs were found in the bodies of the militants”, which corresponds to the testimonies of the hostages who emphasize the high professionalism of the terrorists and do not tend to consider the terrorists as banal drug addicts. We will turn to the extremely important question about the nature of the explosions at 1:02PM and 1:05PM in the end of this chapter, but now let us follow the tragedy to the end.
So, the first explosion at one o’clock coincided with the arrival of the truck with employees from the Ministry of emergencies. At the same time a second explosion followed. Right after the first two explosions the hostages started to get out through the broken windows (the terrorists have broken the windows in the beginning of the capture fearing that gas might be employed against them – like in the Center on Dubrovka.), first one by one, then by dozens and ran for their lives on the school’s territory. Shooting broke out from both sides. Immediately after the first two explosions general Andreyev gave the order to general Tikhonov (leader of the FSB special assignment center, commanding the Alpha and Vimpel groups) to start the military operation to save the hostages, i.e. to start the raid. The snipers of the intelligence group started to fire at the enemy. Fire trucks, ambulances, police and private vehicles were occupying positions around the school during these minutes. They picked up those who escaped and brought them to Beslan’s hospitals.
September 3rd. 1: 30PM. The roof of the gymnasium collapsed. An entire wing of the building caught fire. An armored vehicle is firing. The terrorists try to gather part of the hostages to the basement. And through the main hallway into the theater hall. This is how the German journalists saw this situation at 1:30: “ All of this looks like a planned storm from the other side, from Komintern Street. Two tanks arrive with armored vehicles; grenade and flamethrowers take position. We don’t see rescue equipment, only attack equipment. Combat helicopters of the MI-24 type arrive. The children and the elderly are running and crawling in all directions in the yard. Girls and mothers run away from the gymnasium almost with no clothes on.”
According to the unanimous testimony of the witnesses the combat helicopter appeared above the school right after 1:05AM or even at 1:04AM. I am of the opinion that the first explosions were not shots from flamethrowers but missiles from the helicopters. I watched how this is done in the Serbia wars.
2:00PM. There are seventy hostages in the cafeteria. The militants order the children to tear the white curtains from the walls, to go on the windows and to wave the curtains. And to shout “Don’t shoot, don’t shoot!” Nurpashi Kulayev, the future hero of the trial, in a training suit, unarmed, joins the hostages. “I didn’t kill anybody here. They forced me.”
2:45PM. Some of the terrorist group mixed with the hostages. They wear jeans and t-shirts; they left their camouflage and weapons. But the jeans give them away, since the hostages were going to school in festive clothes for September 1st. In the flow of the running hostages they escape from the school on Komintern Street and cross the railroad. Helicopters pursue the running militants. They are shot from the air. Others are encircled near private houses. The commandos run up to them and execute them. The German journalists comment: “It doesn’t look like they intended to arrest anybody. The commandos shot without asking questions.”
3:05PM. General Tikhonov gives the order to enter the school.
3:30PM. The shooting diminished. Nurpashi Kulayev leaves the school with a group of hostages (in particular with the physical education teacher Tzagalov). The commandos do not have the guts to shoot him in front of everybody. He is arrested.
4:35PM. The fighting is not over. In the rear part of the building the terrorists are resisting with all their forces. On the second floor as well. Some militants barricaded themselves in the storeroom, some managed to reach the basement. They shoot from grenade throwers.
4:40PM. Beslan. Hospital. Already 554 wounded were brought in, 500 of them were sent to Vladikavkaz.
5:00PM. School Number One. The gymnasium, the main hallway, the theater hall, the cafeteria, the classes in the front part of the building are already in the hands of the security forces. The school is burning.
6:13PM. Beslan. The anti-crisis Center. They tell the official number of wounded in the hospitals of Beslan and Vladikavkaz. 346. They are lying as usual. In reality there are already over six hundred. Putin’s proxy Aslambek Aslakhanov spreads the statement “that the number of victims could be over 150.” In reality he knows that they are already about three hundred.
7:00PM. Beslan. The morgue. In order to obtain the body of the dead, the relatives must bring seven meters of cellophane and two bedcovers to the hospital. Yes, they do. The transport of the body is paid by the relatives. The beloved Motherland will not pay a penny here. It costs three hundred rubles to keep the beloved corpse one night in the refrigerator.
7:08PM. Thousands of relatives stand near the House of Culture and the city hall. Many are loudly sobbing.
9:09PM. Beslan. The Anti-crisis Center. The chief of North Ossetia’s FSB Valery Andreyev informs that the fighting in the school goes on. Especially in the big workshop. The tank number 325 of the 58th army arrives to the rear part of the school. It lowers the muzzle of the cannon and shoots in the basement. After this it is impossible to know who was there.
September 4th. 2:00AM. School Number One. The back of the school. Ten explosions, similar to hand grenade explosions shatter the back wing of the school. The death cries: “Allah akbar! Allah akbar!” are heard in the silence. The end.
After this technical, although incomplete, chronology (after all, I am not writing a book about the Beslan tragedy alone) let us return to the issue of responsibility. The militants wanted to negotiate. In general, we know that they demanded the withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya. The North Ossetian commission concludes, I cite Novaya Gazeta: “To this day there is no complete clarity about the demands of the terrorists. Also unknown is the fate and the content of the tape the terrorists gave to the operational headquarters (given through Aushev, – E. L.) /…/ The RF authorities, in essence, distanced themselves from the responsibility and condemned the entire negotiation process to failure.” (However, meanwhile they prepared tanks, armored vehicles, helicopters, and 1054 hospital beds; we know that the order to prepare the beds came from Moscow).
The question about the responsibility for the massacre of the innocents can be solved if we establish who is the author of the first explosions. Novaya Gazeta writes: “Doubtlessly, the first explosions have a hidden motive – legal and political. The possible appearance of Maskhadov and Zakayev in Beslan put the Kremlin before a difficult choice: allow the rescue of the hostages and thus legalize Maskhadov’s figure and allow the possibility of a political regulation of the Chechen problem. The “unplanned” raid as an alternative of the unfolding of events allowed avoiding such a situation. But it also made the authorities’ responsibility for the deaths of the hostages non obvious.
So the most important is the nature of the explosions. In the middle of May 2005 the trial of Nurpashi Kulayev, the only surviving terrorist from Beslan’s School Number One, began in Vladikavkaz. The witnesses and victims give a straightforward answer when asked about the nature of the explosions. “On one of the last sessions (in September) the following facts were confirmed and concretized by the victims who were present near the school on September 3rd,” Novaya Gazeta, issue 65, writes, “ simultaneously with the first explosion a smoke cloud of a perfect form (which is extremely important) went up vertically over the roof of the gymnasium and bits of the roofing slate were scattered on a distance of up to one hundred meters from the gymnasium. According to the best experts in explosives… both the smoke cloud of a perfect form and the roofing slate scattered on a long distance are the consequences of the roof being fired on from the inside. This fact is also supported by the nature of the hearths and the picture of the fire spreading in the gymnasium. Initially the fire broke out at 1:05PM after the first explosion at 1:02PM in the garret; the ceiling’s wooden overlaps and plastic paneling were enveloped in fire. After this the smoldering paneling and the burning overlaps started to fall on the people wounded and shell-shocked after the explosions. This is also appearing from the testimonies of many hostages who could not hear the second explosion because of their shell shock but have felt the bright burning flame that provoked a large fire inside the gymnasium. This flame could have been the cause of the detonation of one (one of the three, – E.L.) of the large self-made explosive devices. It is the third explosion that was the most powerful one.”
Here I should give the analysis of the nature and the causes of death of 331 people.
Gunshot wounds – 51ne people (21 of them were killed on September 1st and 2nd and 10 people are commandos.)
Splinter-shell wounds – 150 people.
Thermal burns – 10 people.
Wounds caused by blunt objects (fragments of the burning roof) – 4 people.
The experts were not able to establish the cause of death of 115 people because of the heavy effects of the flames, up to complete carbonization.
Now let us turn directly to the testimonies of the witnesses on Kulayev`s trial:
“The victim Zemfira Agayeva said how, when the terrorists were rounding up the people, they were shouting that we don’t fear anything, that ‘We are here so that they withdraw the troops from Chechnya’. The victim also spoke about the beginning of the raid: ‘Right after the first explosion was heard, some unbearable whistle was heard from the side of the schoolyard and something exploded again, only it was far more powerful. And a few minutes later it became hot as hell in the gymnasium, I even thought I was burning. These were the flamethrowers firing, although Shepel affirms (Russia’s deputy Prosecutor General Nikolay Shepel) that the flamethrowers could not have put anything on fire. If he was here I would have liked to ask him a question.” Kommersant, 08.03.05.
The victim Rimma Kusraeva: “On September 1st at three or four o’clock at night they (the militants) told us that, from their previous experience, they think that there will be a raid. The militants said then that we should get down immediately, so that our people don’t kill us all and they will be able to resist the first attack. On the following day they came and said that they are declaring a hunger strike together with us, so that they stop the war in Chechnya. They were saying: ‘We are not terrorists, we are freedom fighters.’ And when the first explosion came, one of them told another that the roof was burning. We were led to the cafeteria, from there to the theater hall. Then to the cafeteria again. The children were drinking water there. I ran up to one of the terrorists and asked him: ‘Are you going to kill us?’ And he said: ‘don’t you see who is firing at you? ” “Rima Kusraeva,” Kommersant continues, “told how the militants put the women and children in the window frames and gave them curtains. They were supposed to wave them like white flags so that they don’t shoot at the windows. ‘Then an armored vehicle arrived, three soldiers jumped out of it and started to shoot at the windows,’ the victim said. – I saw how a woman fell, after this there was a heap of corpses on the windowsill. The terrorists did not shoot us at all – I even thought that when they are done killing them, they (the military federals) will go in and kill us all.” Kommersant 08.08.05.
The victim Zarina Tokaeva: “When I heard the first explosion I fell and saw the ceiling. It started to burn and to collapse… I saw the militants who stood near the changing-room. Their faces were confused. I heard them saying ‘You were blown up by your own people.’ While I was regaining my senses after the explosion, the roof of the gymnasium was heavily bombed all this time. A few children and we were making sprints first from the gymnasium to the changing-room and then to the second changing-room. Children were hiding and screaming from fear everywhere and we were gathering them on our way. All this time the hall and the roofs of the changing-rooms were heavily bombed; it seemed as if we were going from the changing-room to another room and they instantly start to bomb that room. But there were no militants in the gymnasium. Why did they bomb it?
– What do you mean by bombing? – The prosecutor Semisinova asked.
– Well… – the former hostage was confused, – it’s when they fire missiles on the roof and the walls and they explode. This is approximately how it was in the gymnasium and the school.
– On the preliminary investigation you testified that a militant has fixed a mine that was hanging above you; he made something with his hands there…
– Yes, I remember that mine. I have come to know it inside out after three days. It didn’t explode after the explosion. After the first explosion the walls of the gymnasium shook and the ceiling collapsed…” Novaya Gazeta, issue 55, 08.08-03.05
The witness Kazbek Torchinov. “He was recognized as a victim although he wasn’t a hostage, because during the raid his house, situated near the school, was heavily damaged. /…/ Kazbek Torchinov remembered the beginning of the raid in all its details. He saw everything from his window.
– A vehicle arrived and four men wearing uniforms of the Ministry of emergencies came out of it. They held their hands up and went to an open window where one of the militants was apparently sitting. They had a talk and started to load the corpses into the car. A terrorist came up to them and watched how they worked. At one moment the militant seemed to notice something and darted back inside the school. And right after this they started to fire at the angle of the school from the armored vehicle. I don’t know why he shot but a few seconds later the first explosion took place. – After a little thinking Kazbek Torchinov added:
– I can’t understand why they didn’t let Maskhadov, who strived for it, to enter the school. Were they ashamed? And today, aren’t they ashamed to look at the memorial? ” Kommersant. 09.28.05
The victim Vitaly Makeev, 13 years old, about the beginning of the raid: “It seemed to me that somebody had fired from the street because some sort of fire flew in the gymnasium. After this a terrorist run up and told us to go to the training room. And we started to run over the bodies. I noticed one of my classmates there – he was lying on the floor… without his head. Then they told us to go to the cafeteria. And there I saw a red ball flaying in through the window. It hit the bars and they broke.” Kommersant, 09.21.05
The victim Viktorya Kastuyeva explained with whom did the terrorists want to talk: “He (the militant who led the talks on the cellphone) was saying that he needed four persons: Dzasokhov, Alkhanov (Chechnya’s president) and Rushailo. He also said on the phone ‘you too’. Later in the hospital I asked my brother whom did the terrorists want to see apart from those three. They told me it was Ziazikov (Ingushetia`s president) and I realized that he was speaking with him. I still don’t understand why everybody started saying that he wanted to see Roshal. Amir was yelling on the phone that he’s not sick; he doesn’t need a doctor. I’m sure he said he wants Rushailo to come, not Roshal. I heard it myself.’ The victim Kastuyeva said that the negotiator of the terrorists nicknamed Amir (not a single former hostage had identified him among the killed terrorists) said: ‘it is a great sin before God that because of me children and women are left without water’. ‘He said that the special services had poisoned the water, like in Nord-Ost, told the woman. The victim said that she was outraged by the claims of Nikolay Shepel in the television program Man and Law. ‘He says there that he doesn’t know at what time the tanks started to fire at the school,’ said the woman looking straight at the deputy prosecutor, ‘With my own eyes I saw that the tanks started to fire at about four o’clock! The militants ordered me to stand in the window and to wave a curtain into the street while they are firing back!
– And in what direction was the tank firing? – Nikolay Shepel asked.
– At the school, naturally, answered the upset victim. – Do you think the missile could have changed its direction? /…/ I have nothing against the tankers who fired and the commandos, said the woman through tears. – I have a bullet in my lungs, our bullet… I don’t blame them. But where were our Special services during these three days? Why neither Putin nor Ivanov, our commanders-in-chief, did anything? The commandos were cannon fodder just like us. The woman burst in tears and the judge stopped the interrogation.”
Let us sum up. Even before two commissions have started the investigation, the official version was that the massacre was caused by an accidental explosion that occurred in the gymnasium. Supposedly, the basketball rings high over the heads of the hostages were mined. Supposedly, for some reason, notice, in the moment when four men in uniforms of the Ministry of emergencies started to load the corpses; they arrived in a truck, in a crucial moment when the terrorists should fear an attack, they decided to start remining the gymnasium according to another scheme and the system blew up. Notice that the mined rings, everybody talked about them right after Beslan, give a good answer as to why did the roof explode. Later, during the Kulayev trial the precise official version said that there was a detonation button, on which a terrorist was constantly sitting and pressed it with his foot. The last version was that our Russian sniper removed this terrorist.
The official version is a doubtless lie. The flamethrowers, as Novaya Gazeta journalists affirm, were doubtlessly used during the raid, however professional military will not fire on the roof with them. I affirm that the raid began with the firing of missiles from helicopters on the gymnasium’s roof. The helicopters appeared over the school at 1:04PM according to some sources, at 1:11PM according to others and not later. In order for the helicopters to be in the air at that time they should have been lifted before 1 o’clock. The firing can be made during the time when the helicopter has not yet appeared over the school. (And it will not hover above it or it will get shot.) The roof was torn open with missiles. (In order to justify the missiles they needed the rings.) In a moment of panic among the terrorists the first commandos in uniforms of the Ministry of emergency were supposed to burst into the building followed by other attacking forces. This is what happened; the witness Kazbek Torchinov said: “They started to fire from the armored vehicle at the school.” However the 33 suicide bombers who occupied the school were experienced and cold-blooded fighters. (Let us not forget that the Chechens have defended the Brest tower.) In result the operation “Release” came down to the massacre of children, to the massacre of the innocents. One detail: The Committee of the Dubrovka Victims has addressed Putin on September 2nd asking him not to use gas in Beslan. The president, with his usual scorn or arrogance did not answer anything. Putin fulfilled the request of the Committee; he did not use gas. But he gave his agreement to the raid of a school fully packed with crying children, since he always puts his personal (confounding them with the State’s) interests incomparably above the lives of Russian citizens, above the lives of children. Therefore he is an inhuman president. Therefore the nazbols are right when they chant on their meetings: “Putin is the butcher of Beslan!” Therefore he is an extremely dangerous president. It is simply absurd to contest the fact that he was taking the fateful decision about the raid of the school. It does not appear to be possible to imagine that such a highly important decision was taken without the participation of the head of State. Even in non absolutist-type States such important decisions are made by the head of State after he has heard the opinions of professional specialists. What speaks in favor of the fact that Putin made this inhuman decision, as well as the decision to raid the Center on Dubrovka himself is the surprising circumstance that no one from the ministers and generals was fired, degraded or sent on retirement. Because Putin had no one to punish. He gave the order. He cannot fire himself.
Again, like in the case of the neutralization of the terrorist act on Dubrovka, a big lie was built up. Again the blame for the raid was cast on the terrorists. It is impossible to contest that the terrorists, whatever goals they pursued or whatever they are called, even “wreckers”, and even if they acted in the interests of their Chechen people, and that is how they acted, it is impossible to contest that they are inhuman if only because of the single fact that they took hostages and above all children. However it is not at all necessary to contest the inhumanity of the president. Again, like two years before that, he refused to negotiate; he refused to show the video of the hostages speaking. Again with his agreement, his servants lied, lied, lied. It appears that lying is his operational method. With its help he covers up the inhumanity of his actions.
And finally, let us turn to the final witness.
On the night of September 15th Shamil Basayev sent a declaration letter about the tragedy in Beslan on the Internet site Caucasus-Center. Shamil Basayev wants the Chechen side to look more honorable. And still it makes sense to listen to his voice, judging this tragedy, the more so that he makes the impression of a person who can allow himself not to lie. Among other things, here is what Basayev said: “A terrible tragedy happened in Beslan: the Kremlin’s vampire destroyed and wounded a thousand of children and adults, by giving the order to raid the school, for the sake of his imperial ambitions and the preservation of his seat.” “We affirm that Russia’s special services have raided the school, that the raid was planned from the beginning and here are some facts: the demands of the mujahideen were clear and precise: – We demand the immediate ceasing of the war in Chechnya and the beginning of the withdrawal of troops. – If Putin doesn’t want peace we demand Putin`s immediate discharge from the post of RF president.”
Then Basayev presents the Chechen view on the events, he presents the Chechen truth, contesting Kremlin`s official version. He affirms:
– The mujahideen did not demand to release anybody from prison.
– The (supposedly) “empty” tape contained an address of the hostages to Putin.
– They distanced the relatives of the hostages by making up a night firing.
– The old KGB agent Roshal cheated and calmed the relatives by telling them that the children will stay alive 8-9 days without water and food.
– They have chosen the time of the prayer for the beginning of the raid – 1 o’clock PM.
– The mujahideen committed a fatal error by letting the vehicle of the “Ministry of emergencies” FSB, which contained God know what, to the building.
– The employees of the Ministry of emergencies shouted “Run out!” to the hostages and the explosions occurred right after this.
– They fired at the school in order to cover the employees of the Ministry of emergencies and after the explosion two of our mujahideen who came out to them were killed.
– The helicopters with snipers appeared instantly.
– It’s bullshit that Alpha and Vimpel weren’t ready, that “they even didn’t have the time to assign the firing sectors and the firing points.” Although the politicians have turned them into butchers they are still honorable professionals.
– The apology for a Prosecutor General Ustinov told Putin that the mujahideen changed the chain and that caused an accidental explosion. Even the sorriest of idiots will not change the chain during an operation, especially at the moment when an enemy vehicle is approaching the building.
– There is almost no splinters on the walls of the gymnasium while there are over 30 thousand splinters in a mine. (Then Basayev professionally calculates the number of splinters in each mine: “Eight regular army “frog” mines, 2700 splinters in each; ten self-made mines, 1000 splinters in each and two self-made MON-1000 from saltpeter, 1000 splinters in each.”)
– The basketball rings in which the big mines were are intact.
– The auto-detonation is excluded – otherwise all the 20 mines linked together in a single chain would have exploded simultaneously; while four non exploded mines were shown… it would have been all or none.
I will stop here to note that I am forced, and you with me, to search for pieces of truth among those who are fighting against us, looking for independence for their country. It is outrageous that we, Russia’s citizens are the object of the lies of Russia’s president and its government. In his letter, Basayev also cites his personal message to Putin, which Basayev gave through Aushev and Dzasokhov. It is vitally important to know what did the suicide bombers, the 33 Chechen wreckers who captured the school in Beslan, want. Listen to this message. It has a proud independent style: “From Allah’s slave Shamil Abu-Idris to the RF president V. V. Putin. Vladimir Putin, you didn’t start this war, but you can stop it if you have enough of De Gaulle’s courage and resoluteness. We offer you a wise peace on a mutually beneficial base according to the principle: ‘Independence in exchange for security.’ In the case of the withdrawal of troops and the recognition of the Chechen republic’s independence, we pledge:
– not to conclude any political, military or economical alliances with anybody against Russia;
– not to dislocate foreign military bases leading armed fight against the Russian Federation on our territory;
– not to support or finance groups or organizations leading an armed fight against the Russian federation;
– join the CIS;
– stay in the same ruble zone.
– Besides, we can sign the Collective Security Treaty, although we would prefer the status of a neutral State.
– Also we can guarantee the refusal of all Russian Muslims from armed fight methods against the RF, minimally for 10-15 years, on the condition that freedom of religion is respected, which, by the way, is fixed in the RF Constitution;
– We have no relation to the bombing in Moscow and Volgodonsk, but, for the sake of the cause, we can take the blame in an acceptable form.
The Chechen people is leading a national-liberation war for its freedom and independence, for it self-preservation and not for destroying Russia or humiliate it. When we are free we will be interested in a strong neighbor.
We are acting by methods and means to which you force us and we will not hesitate before anything in order to stop the genocide of the Chechen people. We propose you peace and the choice is yours. Allah akbar. 08.30.04.”
The little president has made his choice. He gave the order to lie, to raid a building full of children, presenting the thing as if the Chechens started the fire. Did the president commit a crime?
It looks very much like a crime. And what will he do, for instance, when the terrorists, whose families, let us say, were massacred in the mountains of North Caucasus by the presidential army, seize a nuclear plant in Central Russia? Judging by his previous deeds, the president will give the order to raid. And you will all die, comrades commoners, including those who wanted to hear a supposedly confident talk on the televisions screens.
On a meeting with president Putin in the Kremlin a year after the terrorist act, on September 2nd 2005, the head of the Committee of Beslan`s Mothers, Susanna Dudieva said: “This conversation was very difficult for us. You imagine what kind of emotions are overflowing us and what I feel, what these women and the people who stayed home, whose children were killed feel and you bear the blame for that as head of State. All Beslan thinks you are responsible. Because when people ask why he didn’t come they unanimously say that Vladimir Putin is responsible.”
Putin: “I don’t decline all responsibility.”
In other words this man knows that he is guilty of the massacre of children.