Following the assault on the theater, President Putin made a televised address to the nation in which he commenced by saying: “Dear compatriots! During these days, we have together endured a terrible trial. All of our thoughts have concerned those people who found themselves in the hands of armed scum [podonki]. We hoped to free those who had fallen into misfortune, but each of us understood that one had to be prepared for the very worst.”
“Today, early in the morning” Putin continued, “an operation was conducted to free the hostages. We succeeded in doing what seemed almost impossible–in saving the lives of hundreds and hundreds of people. We showed that Russia cannot be forced to her knees. But now, first of all, I would like to address the relatives and friends of those who have perished. We could not save everyone. Forgive us. The memory of those who have died must unite us. I thank all the citizens of Russia for their endurance and unity. Special thanks are due to all those who participated in liberating the people. First of all, to the employees of the special services who, without hesitation, risking their lives, fought to save people. We are also in debt to our friends throughout the entire world for their moral and practical support during the struggle with our common enemy. This enemy is strong and dangerous, inhuman and cruel. It is international terrorism. As long as it is not conquered, nowhere in the world will people feel themselves to be safe. But it must be defeated, and it will be.”
And Putin concluded: “Today, in the hospital, I spoke with one of the victims. He said: ‘It was not terrible. One felt sure that the terrorists have no future.’ And that is the truth. They have no future. But we do.” (Newsru.com, 26 October). In accord with Putin’s sentiments, the Russian government announced on the same day that “it would mount a major operation inside Chechnya to round up terrorists.” “We will clean not only Moscow but all Russia of this scum,” deputy Mvd Minister Vladimir Vasil’ev underlined (New York Times, October 27).