ROAR: “Lessons of Beslan still to be learned”

Vladimir Kremlev for RT
As the fifth anniversary of the tragedy in North Ossetia is being marked, analysts think a lot should be done to prevent such events in the future.

During a special operation in September 2004, the militants who had seized a school in Beslan were eliminated, but losses among civilians were colossal, the Russian media note.

Five years on, a lot of questions still remain unanswered for many Ossetians. “The black fifth anniversary of the Beslan tragedy is a reason to ask what caused those events and what is to be done to prevent that in the future,” Russia weekly wrote.

One of the main goals of the militants at the time was aggravating tense relations between the Caucasus peoples, the paper said. “The organizers of the terrorist act also hoped to start a new stage of the armed conflict in the North Caucasus,” the weekly added.

These thoughts were echoed by North Ossetian President Taimuraz Mamsurov, who told Kommersant Vlast weekly that he had tried to analyze the causes of the crime for a long time. “Why did they do that? Why did they attack women and children?” he asked.

The religious motives were not the main ones for the organizers of the hostage taking, Mamsurov believes. “But they had decided to do this, and that means that their goal was a global one,” he said. “It was an attempt to explode the situation, to cause a clash between [the North Ossetians] and the Ingush people, in order to make the whole Caucasus detonate as a powder barrel,” he stressed.

Asked if the authorities did everything possible to save people in the school, Mamsurov said: “If they died, that means we had not done enough to save them. I know that the leadership of the country thought the same.”

According to a recent survey conducted by a polling and sociological research group – the Levada Center – 52% of respondents believe that the authorities did everything possible to save the hostages in Beslan. In August 2007, 45% of those surveyed thought the same.

More than a third of respondents say now that they still do not have “the whole information” about the tragedy. Only 10% of respondents believe the authorities have told “the whole truth” about that event, and half of those polled think “only part of the truth has been told.”

People in Beslan are still healing wounds caused by the hostage taking. Public organizations in the republic are insisting on the adoption of a federal law about the status of victims of terrorist acts which exist in many countries, Argumenty I Fakty weekly writes.

“Now people who suffered from different terrorist acts in Russia have to solve on their own all their problems, including those connected with medical treatment and rehabilitation,” the weekly wrote. “The help of the local authorities is not enough and more attention from the federal center is needed.”

Meanwhile, politicians and analysts are trying to find ways of fighting terrorism that generate terrorist acts like the one that happened in North Ossetia. “The tragic events in Beslan five years ago have played an important role in the present development of Russia,” Aleksey Makarkin, vice president of the Center for Political Technologies, said.

One of the most significant factors was that the plan of the criminals “failed, because society consolidated around the government,” he said. “Despite the fact that this support was fairly reserved, it means much for our society,” Makarkin told Komsomolskaya Pravda radio.

“Complacency would be a great mistake, because terrorists have adapted to the new situation,” Makarkin said. Militants abandoned their attempts to conduct “large-scale terrorist acts that only let them down and bring no results,” he noted.

Instead of this, militants have chosen a different line, "killing officials and their supporters in the North Caucasus region,” Makarkin said. “To solve this problem, the policy of force alone would not be enough,” he added.

Economic decisions are needed to reduce the huge level of unemployment in the region, as well as “a serious ideological opposition to militants,” Makarkin noted. If these steps are fulfilled, “there is a serious chance of success,” he added.

In his turn, Aleksandr Khramchikhin, head of the information and analytical department of the Institute of Political and Military analysis, believes that it will be difficult for the Russian authorities to stop militant activities.

Militants receive financial support “from the Middle East countries,” Khramchikhin told the Baltic news agency. “The Caucasus has a breeding ground for terrorism,” he said, explaining this by the reaction of locals to “the corruption of the authorities.”

“Local authorities allow terrorists to live in the Caucasus without the fear of being caught,” the analyst said. He also stressed that in this situation fighting terrorism only using force “is tactically justified, but strategically absolutely insufficient.” It is practically impossible to fight terrorist acts in the Caucasus if the authorities are corrupt, he said.

Russian children have started the school year while the situation in the North Caucasus “differs little from that before the Beslan tragedy,” Trud daily wrote. “Like in 2004, in all republics of the region shots are fired, explosions go off, and militants kill high-ranking officials, officers of law enforcement agencies and civilians,” the paper added.

“Despite all the efforts of the authorities and law enforcement agencies, terror in the North Caucasus has not been stopped,” the daily said. Some observers believe that “ideological methods” are necessary, but the policy of force has not exhausted.

Vladimir Goryunov, from the National Strategy Institute, believes that using force in fighting terrorism “is not only appropriate, but is the main method to maintain peace.” “The cynical and savage terrorist act [in Beslan] is evidence to the fact that terrorists will go to all lengths,” he said.

Goryunov thinks that Russia “has not drawn lessons from the events that took place in School Number One in Beslan.” “It is necessary to declare anti-terrorist operations in all districts where there is a threat of terrorism,” he told the Baltic news agency. “Tough control over all spheres of the population’s activities, including the distribution of financial flows and local politics, may actually help in fighting terrorism,” he stressed.

The possible reaction to such moves from the international community “should be ignored by Russia,” Goryunov said. “We are thinking too much about what others will say about us,” he added.

Sergey Borisov, RT