Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 8

The “Mothers of Beslan” group, consisting of parents of children killed in last September’s school massacre in the North Ossetian town, were in Moscow this past week trying to put forward their demands – above all, that North Ossetian President Aleksandr Dzasokhov resign. Lidiya Grafova wrote in the February 21 edition of Novaya gazeta that the group met with various officials – including Aleksandr Torshin, head of the parliamentary commission investigating the circumstances surrounding the Beslan tragedy; Vladimr Lukin, Russia’s human rights ombudsman; and Ella Pamfilova, head of the presidential human rights commission – as well Moscow Helsinki Group head Lyudmila Alexeyeva and INDEM Foundation head Georgy Satarov, who are also co-chairs of the Civil Congress.

The visitors from Beslan held a press conference at the Rosbalt news agency to discuss the results of their meetings. According to Grafova, while there were a number of television cameras at the event, there were no reports about it on Russian television stations. She quoted the leader of the Mothers of Beslan group, Susanna Dudieva, as telling journalists: “Our president Dzasokhov is considered a smart politician, a first-class international affairs specialist. Why didn’t he display his diplomatic talents in negotiations with the terrorists? He didn’t even manage to obtain a sip of water for the children. Why? Because at the X-hour he was thinking not about saving 1,300 hostages, but about saving his career. And he, after all, is the guarantor of our lives. He took an oath on the constitution that he would protect us, and betrayed the children. They died with his name on their lips. No, it is impossible to forgive such treachery.”

Writing in Berliner zeitung on February 18, Katya Tikhomirova quoted Dudieva as saying that it was “well known to the leadership of North Ossetia that oil, narcotics and also weapons illegally cross the border between Ingushetia and North Ossetia” and that the terrorists who attacked the school in Beslan crossed the same unguarded border. “The terrorists, in order to commit their unprecedented crime, took advantage of the negligence and corruption of the North Ossetian leadership,” Dudieva said.

According to Lidiya Grafova of Novaya gazeta, the only male in the Mothers of Beslan group that visited Moscow, Aleksandr Gurmetsov, said during the group’s meeting with Beslan parliamentary commission chief Aleksandr Torshin that the patience of North Ossetia’s men had run out, warning Torshin that the situation in the republic was “dangerously explosive.”

In an interview with Moskovskie novosti published in its English-language edition, Moscow News, on February 16, Torshin suggested that certain unnamed individuals had sabotaged the possibility of a negotiated settlement of the Beslan hostage crisis and were responsible for the explosions that triggered the shootout that ended up taking the lives of more than 330 hostages, half of them children. “I am becoming more and more certain that they were triggered because the negotiating process had begun,” Torshin told the weekly. “A few days ago, we questioned [Kremlin adviser Aslanbek] Aslakhanov, who had been flying to Beslan for direct negotiations with the terrorists. The explosions came the moment his plane landed. I suppose that neither the bandits nor the FSB benefited from the explosions in any way. But someone was interested in them – there is no question about that. We believe that these were certain individuals who were closely watching the course of the Beslan events and did everything to thwart the negotiations. They wanted bloodshed.”

Torshin called Dzasokhov’s role in the Beslan events as “in a way, tragic.” “He was the first to arrive at the scene,” Torshin said. “He was the first state official the terrorists wanted to see. Now everyone keeps asking: Why did he not enter into negotiations? I know the answer: because the operational command headquarters had its own tactics, expressly forbidding Dzasokhov to meet with the bandits.” Torshin said he believed there are “some political forces” that are still “trying to take advantage of the situation to get rid of Dzasokhov.”