Apparently not. One well-known Russian military correspondent, Pavel Felgenhauer, has commented: “It is completely surprising that not one of the suicide-terrorists set off a single explosive, although they did shoot very accurately at the armor-clad special forces (they wounded several of them) but not at the hostages. Possibly the explosives of the terrorists were in reality fakes or else they had clear order not to carry out a massive bloodbath of innocent people. After all, the Chechens came to Moscow with a political goal: to achieve an end to the war and portray the Russian authorities in a negative light. You don’t achieve that by killing innocent people. One must think,” Felgenhauer concluded, “that the true goal of the terrorists was precisely this–to provoke a bloodbath so that innocent people would perish–but physically they would be killed, not by Chechens, but instead by our people [Russians]. Which is de facto what happened.” (Sovsekretno.ru, November 2002)
Writing in the November 1 issue of Novye Izvestia, another leading journalist, Valery Yakov, reported that, at a press conference held following the storming of the theater building, a Norwegian reporter had asked an FSB spokesman, Vladimir Eremin, why the terrorists had not set off their explosives at the time of the storming “since for a certain time they were running about the hall after the beginning of the gas attack.” Eremin’s evasive response was: “I find difficulty in answering that question.”
On November 15, the Daily Report on Russia, a publication brought out by Intercon International USA, reported, citing information obtained from “one of the field commanders in Chechnya,” that: “[The Dubrovka operation] was planned by Shamil Basaev…. Implementation of the operation was assigned to a person who was the only one to be aware of it. It took him six months to prepare. In the process of recruiting, pre-selected potential candidates, women included, were warned that it almost inevitably would result in death and thus they should be ready to sacrifice their lives…. During [his] last contact with the masterminds in Chechnya, Movsar Baraev received clear instructions to be followed in case the theater was stormed. He was ordered not to explode the building, causing death to the majority of the hostages, but to release them. Baraev should resist the offensive, the outcome of which was predictable (his death). These instructions were given two hours before the gas attack was launched.” Dubrovka theater director Georgy Vasilev, who was one of the hostages, told Reuters: “When the shooting began, they [the terrorists] told us to lean forward in the theater seats and cover our heads behind the seats” (Reuters, October 27). The terrorists were apparently being solicitous about the lives of the hostages. The hostagetakers, it should be noted, even failed to execute a major general in the Russian Ministry of the Interior, whom they had earlier found sitting in the theater balcony with his family; the general and his wife survived; one daughter died from the effects of the gas (Testimony of hostage Il’ya Lysak, in Novaya Gazeta, November 14).