Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 3 Issue: 37


The answer to this question appears unambiguously to be yes. After the Russian State Duma–which is de facto dominated by pro-Putin forces–decided not to conduct an investigation into the handling of the hostagetaking incident, the pro-democracy Union of Right Forces faction in the Duma carried out its own investigation. The investigation concluded: “The main reason for the rise in casualties among the hostages… was negligence on the part of officials responsible for organizing first aid for the victims and their transportation to in-patient care units, and for the general coordination of activities aimed at saving people after the raid.” The Union of Right Forces resolution “identified a dozen fatal flaws in the operation, including an ‘unacceptably’ long wait for medical care, secrecy about the type of gas used in the raid and a lack of coordination between commandos and rescue workers, including the absence of a health care professional to coordinate efforts on-site. The document also condemned rescuers’ failure to properly sort victims and immediately assess their condition, inadequate preliminary treatment and overcrowding at hospitals.” “It was absolutely obvious that the goal of saving people was secondary; the primary goal was to eliminate the terrorists,” commission chairman Eduard Vorobyov quoted one expert involved in the investigation as saying” (Moscow Times, November 20; for excerpts from the findings of the investigation, see Novaya Gazeta, November 21). “The Hostages Were Doomed by an Old Friend of Putin,” journalist Vladislav Shurygin concluded in the December 3 issue of the website APN.ru. Citing his conversations with one of the doctors who had treated the hostages after they had been gassed at the theater, Shurygin wrote that Health Minister Yury Shevchenko, “a Petersburger and personal friend of the president,” bore the primary responsibility for the high number of casualties among the hostages.