Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 5 Issue: 44

Mixed messages have been coming from some of those charged with investigating the Beslan school seizure concerning possible foreign involvement in the tragedy. Federation Council Vice-speaker Aleksandr Torshin, who heads the parliamentary commission investigating the circumstances surrounding the Beslan terrorist act, told Interfax on November 27 that investigators had found evidence of the involvement of a foreign intelligence agency. “The proof we have of that involvement is indirect thus far, so I think it is premature to name specifically which special services,” Torshin said. “But when we have collected enough convincing evidence, we will not hide it.”

Yet on November 29, Torshin played down possible foreign connections, saying there was no direct evidence that the terrorists involved in the Beslan raid had connections to any foreign special services, Itar-Tass reported. “However, the mode of action of the terrorists has left an impression that they could have taken a special course of training somewhere,” he added, noting that it is not known where the terrorists acquired their military skills but that he is “working on this issue at present.” “I say again that this is my personal point of view and this question has not been discussed at any meetings of the

Parliamentary Commission,” Torshin said. He added that he was aware of “other facts” related to this issue but that they needed to be thoroughly checked out and that it was “still too early to make them public.”

It is worth noting that on November 16, Torshin said he believed that “more prominent figures” than Chechen separatist leaders Shamil Basaev and Aslan Maskhadov were behind the Beslan attack. These more prominent figures are “well-known people” who are “engaged in something beneficial for themselves and are clearly working on ‘the other’ side,” RIA Novosti quoted Torshin as saying. “I don’t want to mention the names of people in London we’re all tired of hearing about, but still.” Maskhadov has denied involvement in the Beslan attack.

In September, Gennady Gudkov, a member of the State Duma’s Security Committee, said the Beslan raid and other recent terrorist attacks may have be part of a plan masterminded by “certain former Russian citizens” living abroad. “My impression is that Basaev is led by somebody,” Gudkov said, Interfax reported on September 17. “Former British special services officers told me that there is some conspiracy being directed against the Russian president. The objective of this conspiracy is to create a situation in our country where the current head of state would lose people’s trust and would have to step down.”