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September 2nd, 2004. - Beslan School Hostage Crisis
beslan
beslan
September 2nd, 2004.
At 7am on September 2, Lev Dzugayev, the press-secretary of the North Ossetia president, held a meeting with journalists and local residents next to the HQ building.


During the meeting he said the following:

“We are continuing to contact the relatives of those held hostage. I want to emphasize again that they are holding up well, which is very important in this situation. As a result of the work conducted, the lists of those who may be held hostage are being clarified. At this hour, there are 354 persons in these lists.”


Lev Dzugayev. Morning of September 2.

This meeting established a popular myth that authorities tried downplaying the crisis and lied about the quantity of hostages. As you can see, Dzugayev was talking about the lists of hostages that are being clarified because, if you remember from an earlier post, raw lists that were brought to the HQ contained over 3,000 names. The information that the lists are being compiled and clarified was being announced on September 1st. By morning of September 2nd, the HQ confirmed identities of 354 people out of those who were held hostage. This figure did not include names of those, whose presence at the gym the HQ wasn't yet able to establish. In other words, the HQ knew 354 names, not total number of names.

The journalists eager to broadcast sensational news rushed to their cameras and microphones. "RIA-News" journalists were the first ones to make that information public. But instead of communicating Dzugayev's words verbatim, "RIA-News" journalists interpreted them in their own way. They said: "There are 354 people being held hostage". Since "RIA" is a very large and credible news agency, this message made way to many TV-channels, including foreign ones. Some media did their own work and, surprisingly, understood everything correctly. For example, NTV gave right information that "354" is not the final number. But those sane voices were too few to be heard in the mass hysteria about "354 hostages".


Obviously, this message literally caused an explosion of the public and almost led to riots. People came out with large posters saying there are over 800 hostages inside.

In the meanwhile, the terrorists, who were constantly monitoring TV and radio, used this information to their benefit. Being excellent psychologists they started putting additional pressure on hostages telling that no one needs them and threatening to reduce their quantity to the announced number. At the same time they declared to the people that from now one they are declaring a "dry hunger strike" in support of their cause. "Want to drink - drink your urine" - they said. Many did. Soon, urine became a very valuable possession. A woman who used all of hers to wipe the face of her unconscious son was yelled at by her neighbors.

It's necessary to note that later some people (not hostages) claimed that the terrorists stopped giving water because they heard the "354 hostages" announcement. That's incorrect and was refuted by many hostages and even by Basayev himself, who stated that the "the hostages declared a dry hunger strike in support of mujahideen demands". Refusing to give water was a part of terrorists "blitz-krieg" strategy to deprive HQ of any time to counter and force to give into terrorists' demands, which, they knew perfectly well, were unrealizable.


Terrorists continued occasional fire at the surrounding territory. On the photo - a burning car that was parked on the Kominterna street. One of the grenades flew into the boarding school building across the street and destroyed a wall between classrooms.


The destroyed wall between the classrooms in the boarding school.

Immediately a local resident started posing with a sniper rifle.



After the hostage crisis this boarding school was razed and completely rebuilt. The new school got its name after Ivan Kanidi - a phys.ed teacher who died on September 3.

Three T-72 tanks arrive to Beslan. They would be placed on the Kominterna street, on opposing sides of the school.


Arrival of the tanks.


Tanks #325 and #328 next to the railroad crossing. They stood there until September 3.


Tank #320 at the other end of the street. It never moved at all till the end of the crisis.


Location of tanks on September 2nd is marked with red dots.

As a result of negotiations with terrorists, an agreement was reached that Ruslan Aushev - the former president of Ingushetia and a well-respected person in North Caucasus - can enter the school to speak to the terrorists. Aushev was asked to come to Beslan by the FSB senior officers and Sergei Shoigu - the head of the Ministry of Emergency Situations. Aushev arrived in the morning of September 2.

Around 4pm he left to go to school. The terrorists specified his route: he had to walk along the railroad in front of the school's windows and enter through the main gate. This way terrorists controlled every step of his way and assured that there was no assault team behind him.


Aushev's route.





Aushev heading to school.

The terrorists took him upstairs and gave him a note:

“From Allah's slave Shamil Basayev to President Putin. Vladimir Putin, it was not you who started this war. But you can finish it if you have enough courage and determination of de Gaulle. We offer you a sensible peace based on mutual benefit by the principle independence in exchange for security. In case of troops withdrawal and acknowledgement of independence of Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, we are obliged not to make any political, military, or economic treaties with anyone against Russia, not to accommodate foreign military bases on our territory even temporarily, not to support and not to finance groups or organizations carrying out a military struggle against RF, to be present in the united ruble zone, to enter CIS.

Besides, we can sign a treaty even though a neutral state status is more acceptable to us.

We can also guarantee a renunciation of armed struggle against RF by all Muslims of Russia for at least 10 to 15 years under condition of freedom of faith. We are not related to the apartment bombings in Moscow and Volgodonsk, but we can take responsibility for this in an acceptable way.

The Chechen people is leading a nation-liberating struggle for its freedom and independence, for its self-protection rather than for destruction or humiliation of Russia. We offer you peace, but the choice is yours. Allahu Akbar Signature 30 August”



Aushev and Polkovnik in the teachers' room.


Lidiya Tsaliyeva - the school headmistress was brought to the teachers' room. She said that there are 1,200 hostages (Polkovnik corrected her that there are 1,020) and also said that the terrorists are treating everyone well (with a gun to your head and every one out of 1000+ people possible depending on your every word, she didn't have much choice of words).


L-R. Polkovnik, Aushev, Tsaliyeva.

Aushev was taken to the main gym, where he saw the hostages. On the way over there the terrorists dressed him in a black gown, apparently, in fear that he may be wearing a hidden camera. Then they took him upstairs to a classroom where men hostages were executed.


Aushev looking out of the classroom window at the dead bodies.


What he saw.

Everything was filmed on camera, which magically appeared in January of 2005 on CBS, a US TV-station. One can only guess how it got there. The channel claimed it was found by local kids in the rubble. Very funny.

Aushev asked to release the youngest hostages - infants and toddlers. Polkovnik agreed. While that could be viewed as a win for Aushev as a negotiator, the real reason Khuchbarov let the infants go was because he could not control them. Unlike older kids who knew what a gun was and were scared of it, infants didn't care about the threats, they would just scream more. Deprived of food and water, they were constantly crying driving everyone crazy, including the terrorists. 26 people (11 women and 15 children according to Aushev) were released that day.


Releasing hostages. Women walking out in disbelief are actually thanking the terrorists.


One of the women, Fatima Tskaeva, gave her infant daughter, Alena, to Aushev and stayed with her other daughter. Both were killed by the blast the next day. On the photo is the 6-month old Alena being passed by the terrorist to Aushev.


Alena being carried away by a local police officer - Elbrus Gogichaev.


Left - previous shot from a different angle. This photo became particularly famous. Right - Alena. 6 years later.



Released hostages.

Tension is growing in the town. Local men armed with everything from a turn-of-the-last-century rifle to an RPK machine gun walk around the town, threatening to start shooting soldiers if they storm the building. Crowds of journalists hanging out by the local House of a Culture - traditionally a place for various performances, now - the Operational HQ location. The situation doesn't appear to be controlled by authorities. Pushing locals to go home is impossible. Not now. Not in that area of Russia. Not with the forces on hand.

The terrorists mentioned Aslan Maskhadov as a person to negotiate the Russian troops withdrawal from Chechnya. Maskhadov - the president of Chechen Republic of Ichkeria - was in hiding at the time. Attempts to contact him had to be made through intermediaries. Dzasokhov and Aushev call Akhmed Zakayev - Maskhadov's right hand. Zakayev was granted a political asylum in London. When contacted, he claimed to have a one-way communication with Maskhadov but promised to communicate the message.

Later, FSB intercepted Zakayev's telephone conversation with a man by the name of Bilal. During the conversation Zakayev said: “Make sure not to connect the Father with me. The Father should not speak in either direction yet.” "The Father" was Maskhadov's radio call sign. In the meanwhile, Zakayev started sending press-releases to European media claiming that Maskhadov is not responsible for this attack, that it's all Kremlin's fault, that Maskhadov is ready to help out and Zakayev himself is ready to fly out to Beslan. Later, they turned that story into a another myth with the help of journalists. The myth roughly sounds like that: "Maskhadov told the HQ about his intention to come to Beslan. Time and conditions of his arrival were agreed upon. As a well-respected leader among the Chechen separatists Maskhadov could negotiate freedom for the hostages. HQ ordered to storm the building so that Maskhadov wouldn’t get to Beslan to free the hostages because his arrival would result in a political fiasco for Vladimir Putin." It is one of the most ridiculous myths related to Beslan but, nevertheless, it is quite well-known.

Some of the released hostages are being interviewed by journalists. They say that there are over 1,000 hostages inside. Not a single newspaper published that information until the next day! Exclusive news! Ratings and money are far more important that communicating timely information to people.

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