Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 8 Issue: 1
– SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS KULAEV’S LIFE SENTENCE
On December 26, Russia’s Supreme Court upheld a life sentence for Nur-Pashi Kulaev, the only militant known to have survived the 2004 Beslan school siege that killed more than 300 people. As the Associated Press noted, the court rejected appeals from the lawyers for Kulaev, who was convicted in May by a court in southern Russia, as well as from the relatives of the victims. Ella Kesaeva, the head of the Voice of Beslan group of victims’ relatives, told Ekho Moskvy radio that Kulaev’s trial failed to properly investigate the circumstances of the raid and the botched rescue efforts. She also indicated that the injured parties would appeal the decision to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
– PARLIAMENTARY BESLAN COMMISSION CLEARS SILOVIKI
Aleksandr Torshin, head of the Russian parliamentary commission investigating the Beslan school siege, delivered the commission’s findings to the Federation Council on December 22. As Bloomberg News reported, the commission named Aslan Maskhadov, Shamil Basaev and Kuwaiti militant Abu Dzeit as the planners of the school seizure, and said it was the hostage-takers, not the Russian security forces surrounding the school, that set off the explosions that resulted in more than 300 deaths. “One member of the band detonated a homemade device according to a pre-arranged plan,” Torshin asserted. A report on the Beslan tragedy prepared by Yuri Savelyev, a State Duma deputy with the nationalist Rodina (Motherland) party and an explosives expert, found that federal troops fired grenades into Beslan’s School No. 1 on September 3, 2004 while hostages were still inside, and that the commandos’ actions may have prompted the bloody firefight that killed more than 300 hostages (Chechnya Weekly, June 1, 2006). Torshin’s commission also insisted that only 32 terrorists took part in the school seizure, while Savelyev estimated that 56-78 terrorists were involved. Torshin’s report criticized the performance of the security services before the siege, saying the militants were in the area of Beslan for almost a week, moving “openly around the village with weapons in their hands” but that “neither the special services nor the law-enforcement agencies detected them.”
– ALKHANOV SAYS HE’S READY TO TALK TO EXILED REBELS
Chechen President Alu Alkhanov said his administration is ready to hold peace talks with exiled rebels, the Caucasus Times reported on December 27. “If former members of bandit formations, who are currently living abroad, share the strategy for achieving peace and consolidation in Chechen society, then the Chechen authorities are ready to come into contact with them,” he said. “It is not without a reason that I mention political unity. Peace without unity is out of the question. For our part, we are doing a lot to come into contact with them.” At the same time, Alkhanov said that there are “irreconcilable ones” among the former rebels living abroad, but that “we should take into account the desire of the majority of the population to live a normal and creative life.” He said there was no reason to “be afraid” of the fact that former rebels are now employed in Chechnya’s security agencies.