What Was Roshal’s Role?

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 5 Issue: 34

A curious detail about the hostage crisis was noted by the Grani.ru website in a September 2 report. The pediatrician Leonid Roshal, whom the Beslan hostage-takers specifically sought by name as a negotiator, played an ambiguous role in the 2002 Dubrovka hostage crisis. On the one hand he helped evacuate children from the Dubrovka theater, but on the other hand he gave advice to the Russian security services as they prepared to storm the theater—for which he received a medal from the Russian government. Also, to this day Roshal publicly supports the Kremlin’s line that the powerful narcotic gas which was used by the security services to immobilized the theater’s occupants—and from which as many as 200 of the hostages died—was harmless. “It is surprising,” observed the Grani.ru commentary, “that the terrorists [in Beslan] wanted to see just this sort of person acting as a chief negotiator.”

A specific question hanging over Roshal’s role: He went out of his way to express confidence that the captive children could survive for another five days—a confidence which contrasts strangely with the well-established accounts about food and water deprivation. Was he simply saying what the authorities wanted him to?