Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 5 Issue: 38

Yet more information has emerged contradicting last month’s attempts to create the impression that the Beslan terrorists did not have a clear set of negotiating demands. Putin aide Aslanbek Aslakhanov was quoted in an October 13 news broadcast from Channel Four in the United Kingdom as confirming that he was in telephone contact with the hostage-takers on the first day of the siege and that they “put forward a series of demands that we couldn’t possibly agree to, which were full troop withdrawal from Chechnya, recognition of Chechen independence.”

Aslakhanov also said that the terrorists told him on the first day, September 1, that they were holding more than 1200 hostages. Nevertheless, the Kremlin-controlled media continued to report that the number of hostages was only about 350. According to many accounts by ex-hostages, the official lies about that number infuriated the terrorists and provoked them to begin withholding food and water from their victims.

The Putin aide failed to explain why he failed to fly from Moscow to Beslan until the third day of the crisis. But he said that on the evening of the second day he agreed with the terrorists that he would be there on the next day to begin negotiating with them at 3 p.m. It was just two hours before that scheduled time on September 3 that the fatal explosions and gun battles began.

Aslakhanov has also now revealed that the Russian authorities had been informed in advance that there might be a raid into North Ossetia. He told Time magazine that “we were looking at the possibility that they would seize a theater or a cinema. We never thought they would take over a school.”

Even the pro-Kremlin website now acknowledges that the true number of Beslan fatalities may be significantly higher than the official figure. An October 12 article by Yulia Alisova noted that “many consider that the government is hiding the true number of those killed, that there were at least 500.” That figure would considerably exceed the 357 deaths which, according to Novaya gazeta, Beslan suffered during the entire course of World War II.