Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 7 Issue: 41

A poll conducted by the independent Levada Center timed to the fourth anniversary of the hostage seizure at the Dubrovka theater in Moscow found that a majority of Russians believe the authorities are hiding the truth about the incident. According to the poll, which was conducted in mid-October and the results of which were posted on the Levada Center’s website, Levada.ru, on October 23, only 5 percent of the respondents said they thought the authorities are telling the entire truth about the hostage seizure and the events surrounding it, while 51 percent said the authorities are telling only part of the truth. Another 25 percent said they thought the authorities are hiding the truth, while 9 percent said they are “lying and dodging.” As Gazeta pointed out on October 25, when the same poll was taken in November 2002, a month after the hostage seizure, 9 percent said they thought the authorities were telling the entire truth about it while 5 percent said they were “lying and dodging,” meaning that the level of trust has dropped over the last four years.

On October 23, 2002, a group of armed Chechen militants seized 923 audience members and cast members of the musical “Nord-Ost” at the Dubrovka theater center in Moscow. A total of 130 hostages were killed and more than 700 injured when Russian special forces stormed the theater. All of the hostage-takers—21 men and 19 women—were also killed. Most of the hostages died as a result of the narcotic gas that the security forces pumped inside the theater.

Kavkazky Uzel reported on October 23 that relatives of the Dubrovka victims plan by the end of this year to sue the high-level officials who headed the operational headquarters set up by the government during the crisis. The headquarters was headed by then Deputy Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Vladimir Pronichev (currently the FSB’s first deputy director) and then Deputy Interior Minister Vladimir Vasilyev (currently chairman of the State Duma’s Security Committee). The website quoted Tatyana Karpova, the co-chair of “Nord-Ost,” a group comprised of former Dubrovka hostages and victims’ relatives, as saying that her group had collected enough proof of the officials’ guilt to file suit against them. According to Karpova, only one federal investigator has been probing the Dubrovka case in the years since the incident. The Moscow Times on October 24 quoted Igor Trunov, a lawyer representing dozens of survivors of and relatives of those killed in the hostage seizure, as saying that Moscow courts have considered 62 of the 82 compensation claims that have been filed with them, and that damages have been paid in 41 of the cases. According to Trunov, the most money awarded to a claimant was 75,467 rubles ($2,803) and the smallest amount was 2,710 rubles ($100).

“Survivors of the attack say the authorities not only botched the raid but did not plan for the aftermath, when hundreds needed medical help and, critics say, did not get it,” the Moscow Times noted. “Doctors and rescue teams did not know which antidotes to administer to victims in the critical period immediately following the raid; this led to the deaths of dozens. Survivors also accuse authorities of hiding information about the lethality of the gas used.”

The English-language newspaper quoted Pavel Finogenov, whose brother Igor was killed during the security forces’ raid on the theater, as saying: “The feeling is simply that of disappointment in the authorities, which comes from the injustice we have been subjected to throughout the course of the investigation. We demand the truth. The question is not about compensation money. It is about the truth.”

“Nord-Ost” co-chair Tatyana Karpova said on October 26 that Anna Politkovskaya, who acted as a negotiator with the Dubrovka hostage-takers, would be included among the victims of the theater siege. “We consider her death a terrorist act and will enter her in the list of those killed in the terrorist act,” Newsru.com quoted Karpova as saying. As the website noted, it was thanks to the negotiating efforts of Politkovskaya and pediatric surgeon Leonid Roshal that the hostage-takers agreed to give the hostages food and water.

Meanwhile, Moscow Prosecutor’s Office told Itar-Tass on October 23 has been extended until November 19 and is likely to be extended even further. The investigation has already been extended six times.