Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 27


A former Beslan hostage testified at the trial of Nur-Pashi Kulaev, the sole participant in the Beslan school seizure to be apprehended by the authorities, that the number of terrorists involved was more than twice the official number. “Forget the figure of 32; I counted them, and there were no fewer than 70 people,” Kavkazky Uzel on July 12 quoted Larisa Tomaeva as telling North Ossetia’s Supreme Court. She also said that the terrorists had an observer outside the school and that she had seen three other terrorists who were captured along with Kulaev. Her testimony corresponds to comments made by the head of the commission set up by the North Ossetian parliament to investigate the Beslan tragedy, Stanislav Kesaev, who told the newspaper Vremya novostei last month that he “personally saw how after the assault, three people taken off the field of battle were herded into the basement of the district FSB” (see Chechnya Weekly, June 30). Another eyewitness, Vladimir Tomaev, who lost his wife and daughter in the terrorist raid, said he saw seven men in camouflage uniforms enter the school at 7:30 AM on September 1 – that is, two hours before the hostage seizure began.


Lyudmila Alekseyeva, head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, has said that “moderate separatists” should be permitted to participate in Chechnya’s parliamentary elections, which are supposed to take place this autumn, although the exact date has not been set. “Of course, it is not a question of bandits like Basaev,” Kavkazky Uzel quoted her as saying on July 12. “Moderate separatists comprise about 10 percent of the population of Chechnya, and there is no danger that the will receive a majority in parliament. These elections will be very important for Chechnya. Now society in that republic remains split, and the parliament could bring about reconciliation. If the elections are carried out honestly, it will give all groups within the population the opportunity to elect people to the parliament that they trust.” Still, Alekseyeva said the main problem facing Chechnya continues to be disappearances.


Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said July 6 that conscripts will no longer do military service in Chechnya, MosNews reported. Ivanov said the conscripts have been replaced by the 42nd Motorized Rifle Division, which is fully manned with contract servicemen, and that the ministry plans convert units based in other regions of the North Caucasus, including Ingushetia, Dagestan and Karachaevo-Cherkessia, into ones manned exclusively by contract soldiers. Contract servicemen in Chechnya are currently paid 15,000 rubles (approximately $300) per month.