Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 3 Issue: 33

Media reported on October 30 that Russian Minister of Health Yury Shevchenko had asserted categorically that the gas the Special Forces used in storming the Moscow theater on October 26 had been based on fentanyl, a fast-acting opiate with numerous medical applications. The compound, Shevchenko asserted, was an anesthetic and that could not cause death. “The deaths,” he underlined, “were caused by the use of the chemical compound on people who had been starved of oxygen, were dehydrated, hungry, unable to move adequately and under severe psychological stress” (AP, October 30). But was Shevchenko in fact correct concerning the causes of death of a confirmed number of 120 hostages, a figure that might turn out to be too low? “There are now fears,” The Telegraph [London] observed on October 30, “that the final death figure, if it is ever published, may be above 200.”