ROAR: “Beslan 2004 events still obscure”

As ceremonies commemorating the sixth anniversary of the school siege in Beslan are being held in North Ossetia and other cities, many questions concerning the tragedy still remain unanswered.

A group of terrorists seized Beslan secondary school No.1 on September 1, 2004, holding over 1,200 people hostage for three days, mostly children and their parents. After explosions in the gym, 336 hostages, including 186 children, died.

Several thousand people have taken part in the commemorative events in the town since they began on September 1, including delegations from Russian regions and other countries.

State Duma speaker Boris Gryzlov described the events in Beslan as “one of the most terrible tragedies in the modern Russian history.” The state will do everything “to prevent terrorist acts and punish terrorists,” he said on September 3.

He also promised that the parliamentarians will continue their work to improve the legislation regarding the fight against terrorism. This is one of the priorities of the State Duma, he noted. “This summer deputies adopted a number of anti-terrorist laws,” he said, Interfax reported. “In autumn, we will continue this process,” he said.

In particular, the lower house of the parliament will consider amendments to the Criminal Code, toughening punishment for terrorists and their accomplices.

Meanwhile, Russian media and politicians are continuing to analyze the lessons of the tragedy that took place six years ago.

People now come to Beslan from different parts of the country and the assistance to the victims is continuing, but many “prefer not to remember what happened there despite new terrorist acts that from time to time reach places far from the Caucasus,” Vremya Novostey daily noted.

After the siege, there was a trial against the only terrorist taken alive, Nurpashi Kulaev, and the work of the parliamentary commission that, in fact, “gave no convincing answers to the dozens of disputable questions of those three September days,” the daily said. “And then the interest started to fade.”

Nikolay Svanidze, a member of the Public Chamber, thinks that “there has not been a proper investigation or a public assessment of the Beslan events.”

“The bandits were destroyed in the end, but there should not have been the loss of so many lives,” he noted. “We should remember not only victims, but also those who gave wrong, immoral, unqualified orders.”

“The tragedy should be exhausted to the end, and the names of culprits and those who made fatal mistakes should be published,” Svanidze said. “So far this has not been done.”

The events of September 2004 are still “obscure”, agrees another member of the chamber and a human rights activist Aleksandr Brod. “The culprits and those who ordered to seize the school are not known,” the chamber’s press service quoted him as saying. “I think that two things should be done – to build a decent memorial complex in Beslan and to return to the materials of the investigation.”

The debris of the school and the gym where the hostages were held could have been destroyed, but new technologies make it possible to preserve such buildings, Vlast weekly said. A German company has begun works at the school, it added.

According to the authors of the project, the school will become a memorial and museum and visitors will be able to enter classrooms and the gym.

However, the families which survived the tragedy remain in a difficult psychological situation, the weekly said. Some children have just begun to feel psychological and other disorders, it said. However, hospitals in North Ossetia “are overcrowded, and people can get to big Russian clinics only according to quotas, but the republic lacks them.”

After the tragedy, the federal authorities, including the state pension fund, rendered emergency assistance to the victims, but there has not been a special federal program to continue this work, the weekly said. “If they had the direct financing from the Health Ministry, many children and women could feel much better now,” it added.

Sergey Borisov,
Russian Opinion and Analysis Review, RT