Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 5 Issue: 38

The official commission charged with investigating the Beslan affair seems to be laying the groundwork to achieve two goals: a cover-up of what really happened, and a slander campaign against the only Russian political leader who behaved decently during the tragedy. According to an article by Zoya Svetova in Russky kurier on October 14, commission member Yuri Saveliev is raising questions about why the terrorists invited Ruslan Aushev, the former Ingushetian president, into the Beslan school, how he managed to leave the school on September 26 with some 26 people, and who those people were.

It is well established that most of the people whom Aushev succeeded in rescuing from the doomed schoolhouse were women hostages with their very young children. Noting the clearly hostile tone of Saveliev’s questions, Svetova reminded her readers that Aushev “has repeatedly stated that he went to Beslan not on his own initiative but in agreement with the [federal] operational headquarters.” The names of the hostages whom he rescued have already been published by various news media. “Some of Saveliev’s statements are stunning in their cynicism,” wrote Svetova.

The Russky kurier journalist also criticized the commission for selectively concealing its findings. For example, its chairman recently announced that an investigative commission of the North Ossetian parliament had given him a videocassette “containing invaluable information and shedding light on a series of circumstances of the terrorist act”—but he refused to provide any further information. Saveliev declared that “the truth about the real initiators of this terrorist attack may be so horrifying that its publication could lead to new conflicts and bloodshed.” Svetova concluded that the commission is “apparently laying the groundwork for getting us to think that it is not only unnecessary but actually dangerous for society to know the truth about Beslan.”

In a biting commentary on the campaign against Aushev, published by Novaya gazeta on October 14, Dmitri Muratov wrote that everyone should remember several key facts. “1. Aushev flew [to Beslan] at the request of the FSB and Sergei Shoigu. 2. He flew on an airplane belonging to [the federal] special services. 3. He went into the school alone; simply turned to the right and went in. 4. He rejected the terrorists’ demand that he put on a mask; he wanted the people [the hostages] to recognize him and wanted to reassure them. 5. He convinced the terrorists to release women with nursing infants. 6. There were 15 of these. 7. Lists of those who were thus rescued have already been published. 8. He transmitted to the headquarters the demands of the terrorists on a cassette, which included a video of the hostages in the school gym.”

Muratov also noted that Russia’s state television claimed that the cassette handed over by Aushev was blank. The result of the former Ingushetia president’s feat, wrote Muratov, was that “he received thanks from the leaders of the special services, curses from Russia’s bureaucrats and a massive propaganda campaign of lies and reproaches for having remained alive.” The authorities now want to defame Aushev, in Muratov’s view, because his example is such a humiliating contrast to that of Russia’s top officials and bureaucrats “who were afraid to budge without an order.”

Yet another target of those seeking to deflect blame for the tragedy, according to an article by Yuri Safronov published in Novaya gazeta on October 14, is the school’s principal Lidia Tsalievaya. Rumors and graffiti are accusing her of having cooperated with the terrorists and of even having been paid to help them plan their attack. Safronov pointed out that Tsalievaya had gone out of her way to invite some of her own relatives, including her sister and two grandsons, to the opening-day festivities at the school—where she had taught for 50 years.