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Grishin, Alexey

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Panteleev, Denis
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Bochkov, Alexei
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Radchenko, Vladimir
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A live report from the assault onTC
Written by ,   
, 27 2002


The Dead will be for the Living.

 ... The precise number of hostages, the reaction of their relatives, who first opened fire, unidentified corpses of the gunmen, ranks of corpses by the main entrance, dead being transported as wounded, and the killer gas.

At about 2 a.m. on October 26th, our colleague received a call from a hostage who was in the theater hall who reported: They say that theyll start shooting people at 6 in the morning. Although there were no official reports about the possible start of an assault, we decided that we could do nothing else except enter into the breach with two of our colleagues.

Fifteen minutes later we were met by a hospitable owner of one of the apartments located to the right of the main entrance into the DK (Palace of Culture of Moscow Bearings, also known as the Dubrovka theatrical center, or Nord-Ost). It was on the corner of Melnikov Street and #1 Dubrovka Square. From one of the windows on the upper floor was a beautiful view of the DK and the square in front of it. We had binoculars and two cameras. We observed no major change in the locations of the vehicles and forces since the first night, when the terrorists demanded that the special forces move out of the captured zone. Two armored cars stood on the bridge at #1 Dubrovka (to the left of the DK), and nearby special operations soldiers from the interior ministry had set up posts. Two others were on the corner of #1 Dubrovka and Melnikov. On the square in front of this spot stood the two minibuses, one red and one white, in which the terrorists arrived. Only now the emergency lights that had been flashing that first night were already extinguished the batteries had gone dead. The terrorists had left the minibuses with the motors running, and that caused concern that they might have been booby-trapped. An attempt by two soldiers from the interior ministry to switch off the ignitions on the second night, however, had distressing consequences: a terrorist sniper who had been watching from the DK wounded one of them.

From 3to 4 a.m. the square stood ominously silent under the spotlights.

5 a.m. The spotlights on the roof of the Institute of Man, which had been illuminating the main entrance to the DK, are unexpectedly extinguished. It was a bad sign. A day earlier the terrorists declared that if the lights in front of the building were switched off, then they would take that as a sign of an assault and begin to shoot hostages.

A picket of four interior ministry soldiers stands by a bridge over a railroad branch line on #1 Dubrovka. The soldiers are periodically relieved, but it is awkward for them to get about they have to descend into a ravine so they instead cross the bridge. At about 5 a.m. snipers from the DK killed one of the soldiers and wounded another while they were taking the bridge at shift-change. It was not ruled out that this was the terrorists reply to the switching off of the spotlights. We got this information at about 6 a.m.

5:35 a.m. The sound of a grenade launcher, followed by the deafening crash of breaking glass as well as gunshots from the direction of a five-story house standing 200 meters across from the main entrance to the DK. It seems that they slipped in through the parking garage. The wail of automobile alarms continues for about 5minutes.

5:45 a.m. Automatic gunfire from the direction of the reinforced concrete factory located opposite the service entrances to the DK, and a machine gun is audible among these (our comrade who had once served in the special forces determines by its sound that it is an RPK).

6:05 a.m. The radio transmits that representatives of the operational headquarters in charge of the special operation are declaring that they had received a call from the terrorists, stating that their patience had ended and that they were beginning to shoot people. The official version is that all the shooting was by the terrorists, but we have no doubt that an assault had begun, and under the initiative of our own forces.

For a while it grows quieter, and from the window we can see the special forces regrouping. A blue jeep drives up to the square in front of the main entrance. Its lights switch off, but the motor remains running.

6:30 a.m. Four fully equipped soldiers emerge from the bridge to the left of the building. Judging from their uniforms, they are from Vityaz (The Knights, subunits of the interior ministrys special forces).

6:35 a.m. A group of interior ministry soldiers runs across the square to the building about 68altogether. They fly up to the main entrance and begin to break the glass with their boots and rifle butts. The soldiers burst inside. At the same time, vehicles enter the square, including ambulances. Literally a minute later an armored vehicle that had been standing at #1 Dubrovka and Melnikov drives up and stops 120 meters from the entrance to the DK. Two explosions are heard from inside the building. In reply, the KPVT on the armored transport recoils. We see special forces soldiers taking a woman out the main entrance, followed by another woman. Suddenly a powerful flash of light comes from inside the building, and automatic weapons fire is heard. A dozen special forces troops lay on the grass to the right of the building, right under our windows. Through the binoculars Ican see another group of soldiers arranged symmetrically on the left side of the square in front of the DK. At about this time there are two explosions inside the building, accompanied by a white light, similar to grenade bursts. After this, the groups that were concentrating along the parking lot run through the square to the main entrance.

6:40 a.m. There are three explosions in a row, accompanied by red flashes. They come from inside the building and are followed by the sound of return fire.

6:45 a.m. A small squad of special forces soldiers with flashlights heads along the hallway on the first floor to the wing of the building were the library and clubs are located.

6:47 a.m. From three different spots inside the building, soldiers begin to break windows and cut away the huge Nord-Ost poster covering the glass walls of the second floor foyer.

6:50 a.m. Someone is dragged out from the main entrance. A few seconds later, right in front of our window, two soldiers drag out a young man in a gray sweater. Who he is a terrorist who had managed to change clothes, or a journalist who was caught in the zone of the special operation is unclear to us. Stretchers appear by the main entrance, and they bring out a woman. Judging from the sounds, the shooting continues in the rear of the DK, by the 3service entrances. They drag a man from the building; they drag him like a terrorist. Behind him the soldiers lead out three people, covering them with their guns. They are breaking glass everywhere, perhaps in case the terrorists begin to blow themselves up (as they had promised), preventing wounds from flying glass.

7:00 a.m. The main doors to the DK open. Three Defender jeeps with MChS Rescue Center squads drive up to the building. Empty buses move along Melnikov Street, right under our windows. Near the main entrance there are already dozens of people shouting: come on, come on. The square reminds me of a disturbed anthill. A female hostage literally crawls from the building, and someone is dragged out on half-bent legs. A body is carried out, then another.

7:03 a.m. Under the sound of gunfire, a group of people is led out. An Alpha carries out a girl. Then they carry out several bodies.

7:06 a.m. Continuing to carry out bodies are not just special forces soldiers, but rescue center members in white helmets. They arranged the bodies in a rank to the left of the main entrance of the DK, under the awning, where there are already more than 20. We become frightened: we can see from their clothing that they are mainly female, most likely girls, for some reason the soldiers carry the bodies tossed over their shoulders. Thank God that some live ones got out. A few ambulances and resuscitative vehicles leave the square with the wounded.

7:13 a.m. Four buses stop on the right side of the square. They are distinctly visible from our windows. At the same time, to the left of the main entrance, they continue to toss down bodies and the line of corpses has increased with incredible swiftness. Within a few minutes they occupy the entire area: the steps on the left side are spangled with various colored sweaters that the hostages had been wearing. We become terrified: three days ago these women had gotten dressed to go to a popular musical. There is not enough room for all, and the bodies are tossed on top of each other.

7:20 a.m. The first bus with liberated hostages leaves the square in front of the entrance. Our hostess notes that they were all in strange poses, as if sleeping. A few minutes later they carry some rags out from the building (perhaps tablecloths or drapes) and begin to cover up the bodies. Hope that there were wounded among the dead under the awning is gone. Judging from how much space the ranks of bodies occupy, there could be more than 100dead. Under the roar of engines, the wail of sirens, and whistles and shouts from the square, another bus takes off. Some member of the headquarters soon reports on the successful completion of the special operation: the hostages were freed, the terrorists were killed, though a few managed to hide. Not a word about casualties. At that moment two more bodies are taken from the building.

7:43 a.m. to 7:50 a.m. Two buses of hostages leave the square.

7:50 a.m. They put up a fence in front of the entrance, blocking our view.

Towards 8 a.m. Deputy interior minister Vasilev reports that 36terrorists were killed, including Movsar Barayev, though a few had escaped. He stays that headquarters was unable to begin the operation normally because several hostages had tried to escape on their own, and so they were REQUIRED to begin the assault. Later there were several official declarations that the terrorists had provoked the assault, so there was no other option.

We broke into nervous laughter. Who was it that turned off the spotlights on the Institute of Man, which had been illuminating the square? Or was it the terrorists who had conducted a diversionary entry into the street and opened fire from all types of weapons?

8:00 a.m. Our colleague (the same one who had served in the special forces and had participated in hostage rescues) suddenly yells: Theyre putting dead bodies into the buses, look for yourself theyre falling out of the seats. He hands us the binoculars. In truth, the people they are dragging into the buses are immobile and are frozen in strange poses on the seats. Now Ican believe how they lost bodies from parliament in 93 (after Yeltsin ordered tanks to fire upon striking MPs), notes another colleague. At this time an NTV correspondent, who, judging from the picture, is broadcasting from the corner of #1 Dubrovka, says that he can see buses full of hostages passing by, and that their faces are beaming. The only explanation that we can come up with for this strange means of transporting corpses is to claim that those killed during the assault actually died in the hospitals. By this time the hostages bodies have all been removed.

8:10 a.m. The television reports that a terrorist was captured trying to hide among the journalists.

8:45 a.m. On the right side of the parking lot they are stacking 8black bags with the bodies of terrorists. A bus drives up, and the gunmens bodies are all loaded up.

11:00 a.m. They continue to carry the dead from the building. As we are leaving the apartment, one of the bodies still remains on the steps of the main entrance. We leave the apartment, giving our thanks to those people who sheltered us and allowed us to tell you about what really happened during the storming of the former DK of Moscow Bearings.

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