Indications are multiplying that the federal troops in Beslan during last month’s crisis used grossly inappropriate weaponry, increasing the dangers to the schoolchildren and others taken hostage by terrorists. According to an October 24 article in Britain’s Independent by Andrew Osborn, the paper’s Moscow correspondent, Arkady Baskaev, a member of the official parliamentary investigating team, said that the federal forces used tanks, flame-throwers and rocket-propelled grenades against the school at a time on September 3 when some of the hostages may still have been inside.
Supporting deputy Baskaev’s charges was Lieutenant General Viktor Sobolev, commander of Russia’s 58th Army, the officer in charge of military operations in Beslan during the siege and assault. Writing for the official military newspaper Krasnaya zvezda, General Sobolev admitted that tanks and other armored vehicles had fired on the school building. But the general claimed that the decision to use these heavy weapons had come not from his own superiors in the Ministry of Defense but from the Federal Security Service (FSB).