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Altynbek Sarsenaev, former Kazakhstan ambassador to Russia
Written by Ксения Каспари   
Воскресенье, 26 Октябрь 2003

KSENIYA KASPARI, Kazakhstan TV correspondent


(Altynbek Sarsenaev, former Kazakhstan ambassador to Russia): “The diplomats from the countries whose citizens were in the theater hall had a conference.  I made the suggestion that we ask the terrorists to release all the foreign hostages in one group, and not by nationality after an appeal by every individual ambassador.  Imagine this, he Americans demanding theirs, the Georgians theirs, and the result would be disorder in the theater, panic, and that would have led to more victims. 

All the diplomats supported this suggestion, and in the course of two days we got this through in the name of all the diplomats.  The terrorists formally agreed, but at the same time they were just drawing it all out.  The first deadline for letting the foreign citizens go was 12 o’clock, then it was 2, then 8, and 10.  The next day the same situation repeated itself, and no hostages were released.  When the Russian special services asked us to leave the premises, and the active movements of forces began, we understood that that night there would be an assault.”

(Kazakhstan TV correspondent Kseniya Kaspari): What happened on the day following the assault, and how did you look for our citizens?

“I have to admit, honestly, that things were harder after the special operation.  As you know, many of the victims were taken to various city hospitals.  And of course, no one made any lists and no one knew who was where.  By the entrance of each hospital were guards, and it was very hard for our employees to get inside and find out anything reliable.  I had to get into the official limousine with the Kazakhstan flag on it and personally get the information about our citizens.  During these searches it became clear that there were the bodies of children in one of the Moscow hospitals.  The head physician had strict instructions not to show or inform anyone what was there.  He explained to us that, yes, there were bodies, but they had been taken to the morgue.  I understood that this man was lying, and it was bothering him.  We were getting ready to go, but then a policeman came up to me and said: ‘Mr. Ambassador, I’ve been a cop for more than 25 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this before.  My conscience won’t let me deceive you, the girl you’re looking for, from what I can tell, is right here.  Come with me, I’ll escort you in’. This captain apparently had talked his boss into it, and he escorted us down to a cellar, where I was shown a body.  This is how we found the third citizen from our republic.”

What did you do when you understood that the plan for the ambassadors not to try and release their citizens separately would not work?

“I called Astana (the capital of Kazakhstan) and asked that the director of the ‘Weihnach’ cultural center, Mr. Muradov, come to Moscow.  After the Azerbaijani broke the accord and got their hostages released, the Ukrainians went and started trying to do the same.  Muradov decided to contact Barayev personally.  We got the cell phone number from FSB people.  When Movsar Barayev asked why the names of our Kazak citizens were all Russian, Muradov answered: ‘you are the ones dividing everyone into Russian and Chechen, but where we live Russians and Kazaks and Chechens are all Kazakhstanis!’.  In a word, we agreed to have all the Kazakhstani hostages released at 8 am.  But we didn’t know that that night there would be an assault.”
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