In a sign of rising ethnic tensions in the wake of the Beslan school massacre, four people from the Caucasus were hospitalized after being beaten and stabbed in the late evening of September 18 by a group of up to 50 youths on the Moscow subway. One of the victims was listed in serious condition. The attack took place on the subway’s Green Line between the Aeroport and Dynamo stations in the northerwestern part of the capital (Moscow Times, September 20).
Among those who witnessed the attack was Sergei Dyupin, a correspondent for Kommersant, who was on his way home from the newspaper’s office near the Green Line’s Sokol station. While some press accounts described the attackers as “skinheads,” Dyupin reported that they included youths with close-cropped hair and others with long hair. The most striking feature of the attack — at least as described by Dyupin — is that it was clearly well-planned and coordinated: a “brigadier” gave orders to members of the gang, some of whom were deployed to prevent male passengers from intervening while others were ordered to prevent passengers from getting to the subway car’s emergency intercoms. The “brigadier” even made an announcement to the other passengers just before the attack, saying that they should not be scared. The attackers then shouted at the victims, whom they called “Muslims” and other more derogatory names, that the attacks were in revenge for “Beslan,” “the planes” (the two airliners apparently brought down by terrorists, killing 90), “Nord-Ost” (the 2002 Moscow theater siege by Chechen separatists), and “Rizhskaya” (the Moscow metro station hit by a suicide bomber).
Police initially characterized the attacks as hooliganism, but Moscow prosecutors said on September 19 that they had reclassified it as the more serious crime of inciting hatred or hostility based on ethnic characteristics (Kommersant, Moscow Times, September 20).
Ironically, Dyupin had just returned from a week in Beslan, and he painted an alarming picture of the situation in that North Ossetian town. “The atmosphere there is becoming heated to the highest degree,” he wrote. “Many Ossetian men intend to get revenge for the death of the children; the only question is against whom and how. The most resolute plan to carry out a raid on Chechnya in order to liquidate the organizer of the seizure of the school, Shamil Basayev; others plan a ‘targeted cleaning out’ of relatives of the terrorists in Ingushetia; still other don’t plan to go anywhere and simply promise to ‘draw blood’ for the murdered. Pogroms were expected each night in the republic the whole time [I was there], but didn’t happen. On the other hand, it looks like they’ve already started in Moscow” (Kommersant, September 20).
Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev claimed responsibility for the Beslan attack, the downing of the airliners, and the Rizhskaya metro bombing in a statement posted September 17 on the Kavkazcenter.com website. The Lithuanian authorities subsequently shut down that website’s server (Moscow Times, September 20).
Meanwhile, police in Moscow said they intercepted a car packed with explosives in the western part of the city on September 18 and arrested a suspect who said he had been paid $1,000 to take it to Kutuzovsky Prospekt, the thoroughfare used by President Vladimir Putin to travel to and from the Kremlin (Reuters, September 18). The suspect later died in a hospital after questioning. While according to initial reports he died of a heart attack, he was subsequently reported to have died from “grievous bodily injuries” (NTV, Itar-Tass, September 19). A newspaper reported that the explosive-laden car was registered to Rauza Abukaderova, who, according to the Russian special services, is the wife of a Chechen rebel fighter (Vremya novostei, September 20).