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6.4. Description of the events by victim O.A.Zhirov
Written by Administrator   
, 21 2006
On October 23, 2002, my wife, Natalya Zhirova, and our 14-year-old son, Dmitry, were in attendance at the Russian musical 'Nord-Ost', being held at the Dubrovka theatrical center. Ilearned of the theater's seizure by terrorists from the television. Iimmediately dressed myself, and within 15minutes Iwas at Dubrovka. Ireceived the first call from my wife on my mobile phone as Iwas nearing the parking lot near Dubrovka. Thiswas about 10PM, on October 23rd.

Confusion reigned at Dubrovka. Iimmediately contacted police officers, who naturally sent me packing and requested that Inot bother them with my information. After this, Icontacted S.V.Yastrzhembsky, who was the Russian presidents representative and in charge at Dubrovka during those hours. He permitted me to remain within the cordon that the police and military officers were setting up around the scene, and briefed me every half-hour about whatever he knew. Once, right in from of my very own eyes, his assistant asked him what they should tell the media. Yastrzhembsky answered: Tell them that the Chechens demand money. Within a half-hour, radio station Echo of Moscow, TV station NTV, and other media outlets transmitted this information into ether. Thus the disinformation campaign was born.

About a half-hour later, Yastrzhembsky went up to some members of the press, and promised to tell them frankly all that was going on. A site was designated for a meeting, in an apartments courtyard just outside the cordoned off area.

At this time, THEY SHUT OFF ALL MOBILE PHONE COMMUNICATIONS AT DUBROVKA! Whenjournalists asked why they had cut off all mobile phone communications, S.V.Yastrzhembsky smiled, and joked maliciously: Your cell phones dont work? Thats strange, mine work. Why the special services found it necessary to shut off all the cell phones is not understood. Sothat no one could contact those who were inside the seized theater?

Communications were restored after two or three hours, and my wife was able to contact me a second time. Sheand my son gave me information on the number of foreign hostages, which Igave to representatives of the foreign press and the Dutch embassy. Alljournalists, other than representatives from the television station ORT, who were probably otherwise informed) arrived at the spot Yastrzhembsky had designated for his press conference, and at the assigned time. The conference did not take place, however. Yastrzhembsky gave an interview to journalists from ORT in a different location. The other reporters had been tricked into leaving the cordon, and were never allowed back inside. After this, representatives of the media were no longer right next to Nord-Ost; the building was now outside their line of sight.

By midnight the generals had arrived, and they did not talk to Yastrzhembsky at all. He was assigned, probably, another duty the role of dezinformator, the purveyor of disinformation. It easy to see that, from the very beginning, the military and secret services were preparing something which the rest of us had no need to know about, and without attempting to establish contact with the hostages. Ifigured out that from the night of October 2324onward, Yastrzhembsky knew nothing, and was not going to help in any way, besides in the spread of disinformation. Ibegan to look for Dutch journalists, and tried to contact the embassy.

My brother, who at that time worked for FAPSI, the federal governments communications and communications intelligence agency, helped me contact the staff of the Alpha anti-terrorism force. They advised me to call Natalya and Dima (Dmitry), and tell them that they should mention the name of that special forces operational planning commander, assuring me that Natasha and Dima would be left alone after that. Iimmediately understood what this could lead to. Ifthey had done this, then Natasha and Dima would have been the first to be shot by the terrorists, and this was probably what Alpha wanted in the first place. After this, Ino longer tried to contact Alpha, Yastrzhembsky, or any other of the authorities, and left the cordon.

October 24th was a terrible day. First, they broke off the negotiations. Yastrzhembsky was keeping some foreign diplomats in a building commandeered expressly for this purpose. They were expecting negotiations, and Yastrzhembsky would not allow them to accept information from hostages or their relatives, or even the terrorists, who themselves were attempting to release some hostages on the morning on the 24th. The terrorists had made a new demand if relatives of the hostages were to hold a demonstration on Red Square, then they would release the children. The government did not permit it. OMONparamilitaries used rifle butts to chase away grandmothers and grandfathers, who were holding up signs with the tears on the eyes. Iwas overcome with fury and malice.

On the morning of the 24th, strictly by chance, Imet Zaur Talhigov near the Dubrovka building. We started up a conversation, in the course of which Ilearned that Talhigov was a Chechen, and knew Barayev. He had gone to the Dubrovka building at the request of the Moscow Chechen community, with no official pass, papers, money, etc., guided only by the desire, in his words: To render assistance in contacting the terrorists in order to get the hostages released.

Contact was established after awhile, and Ispoke with Zaur about getting my wife and son released. Iasked him repeatedly: Zaur, please, lets think of something, anything. Im ready to take my wifes or my sons place. Zaur said that he would do it. A woman journalist ran up to us at this time: Zaur, a phone call for you. Its the FSB duty officer. The FSB staff duty officer is calling. So they invited him into the headquarters. Ipersonally accompanied him to the police cordon, and saw someone come out from the headquarters and conduct him into the building.

Talhigov was now the center of attention. TheRussian politicians Yavlinsky, Nemtsov, Kobzon, etc., together with senior FSB officers, representatives of the government, and foreign journalists, used Zaur as a mediator in negotiations. Many thought he was from the FSB. In reality, though, all he could do was call the hostage-takers by phone. Icontacted Zaur regularly, and was interested in the state of affairs. There were no changes, however.

Talhigov and Istayed up together on the night of October 2425. Atone point, he said he needed to go to an Internet cafe on the Manezh. Iasked him how he would get there without papers. "(FSB chief) Patrushev signed this paper for me, no cop will arrest me, he replied. But since theres no money, Ill have to go on foot. Ioffered him money for a taxi, but he said: I wont take any from you. Because then youll think Im helping you for the money. You fool, Isaid. Youre the only one who can do anything about his situation. Im afraid to let you out of my sight. Nevertheless, Imanaged to persuade him to take some money for a taxi, and he returned within an hour. We spent a sleepless night together in conversation, about how to help the hostages.

I asked him again: How can we contact Barayev? Talhigov looked straight at me, and said: You know, Oleg, they are very devout Moslems. Theywont do anything bad to the hostages. Ithink they have a different use for them. Butthey dont trust me. Theythink Im from the FSB, so they dont speak openly with me.

Then Igot an idea. Icalled up my wife again. Itasked her to get one of the gunmen. Isaid that a Chechen wanted to speak with them. Myson later told me that a masked terrorist came up, took the phone, and went to a corner of the music hall. He spoke with Talhigov in the Chechen language for a long time. TheChechen even tried to give the phone to Barayev, but Barayev refused.

As soon as we had finished, someone called back on the very same cell phone: Oh, will you will excuse me. Im a Russian journalist, Idialed the wrong number. How, Iwondered, did a Russian journalist get my private Dutch telephone number??? Asit later turned out, from this moment on my telephone was under surveillance.

Natasha then called. Oleg, they reseated us into the first row, and they said that if the Dutch ambassador comes tomorrow morning at nine, with journalists, then they will let us go. After discussing this with Dutch journalists and the political adviser from the Dutch embassy, Iagain called Natashas number. A Chechen answered. From that point on, the Chechens had my wifes phone, and Zaur discussed the details of my familys release with them.

On the morning of the 25th, the diplomats arrived again. Yastrzhembsky told them that the foreigners would be released all at once. This was not the truth, since Barayev had said that embassy officials could only take citizens from their own country.

The government once again was exploiting disinformation. Someone did not want foreign hostages released. When, later in the day, the diplomats had left, representatives from the Ukrainian government contacted Zaur. They said that they were told to obtain the release of Ukrainian hostages from Barayev though Zaur. By midday, Zaur got the terrorists to agree to release the Ukrainian hostages. After awhile, Iasked to speak with Barayev, to discuss the details of the release with him. Iwas going to promise that he could give my wife a message to send to the Dutch information agency RUSNET, which they could report to the outside world.

I dialed Natashas number and, to my surprise, she picked up the phone. It was our last conversation. Atthe time Ithought they would soon be released. She gave the phone to the Chechens, and Igave mine to Zaur, and he talked at great length. Iremember that he slipped a few Russian words in among the Chechen he was speaking: OMON, snipers, BTR armored cars, and so on. Everything he was saying, however, could clearly be seen by anyone standing there at Dubrovka.

Soon after this conversation, Zaur was arrested. All negotiations concerning the release of the hostages ceased at the time of his arrest, and the FSB conducted negotiations directly with the terrorists.

Zaur and Ihad twice negotiated the release of foreign hostages, and the ambassadors had arrived. Theywere taken to a separate building where they sat and waited, and then Yastrzhembsky told the diplomats that Barayev allegedly would not negotiate. Thishad absolutely no basis in reality, because Barayev had personally requested of Zaur: "Let the ambassador of Holland come, and Iwill free the Dutch. Other ambassadors come, Ill let others go. Someone greatly desired that the foreign hostages no be released, and so they arrested Zaur, shut down the negotiations, and conducted an assault.

Later, speaking as the main witness at Zaurs trial, Idescribed his efforts. According to the prosecutor, the FSB, ironically had only one recording of Zaurs telephone conversations, and it was precisely that one in which he spoke about the disposition of the OMON officers, the BTR armored cars, and the special forces. AllZaurs other telephone negotiations concerning the release of the hostages, according the FSB, had been destroyed. Proving Zaurs innocence proved impossible, and he was sentenced to 7years in prison.

On the morning of October 26th, Ifound my son Dima quickly. Natasha, even though Iturned half of Moscow on its head, could not be located. At 9AM, no foreign hostages had died, officially. No tally was provided for a long time. On the night of October 2627, Iagain turned to my brother, who worked for FAPSI. He and a college friend of his, who worked in the operational headquarters of Alpha, starting looking for my wife, since they had access to those places usually closed to the public. Through their efforts, Natasha was located in the morgue of one of Moscows hospitals.

Abusing by his authority, my brother talked FSB officers at the hospital into letting us in. Accompanied by the Dutch ambassador and his political adviser, Iarrived at the hospital at 8 A.M. on the 27th. By then, however, Natashas body had had been transported to the Botkin Hospital. On the way to this hospital, while listening to the radio, we learned that the corpse of the first foreigner known to have died at Dubrovka had been identified Natalya Zhirova. FSB officers were waiting for us at Botkin, and told me that if Iwanted to have Natasha released for burial quickly, Imust not ask too many questions. Iagreed. According to the coroners report, Natasha died in the theater hall. It was later determined she had passed away at the hospital without receiving any medical attention.

For his part in assisting in the search for my wife, my brother was fired from his job at FAPSI.

After the assault, two young investigators questioned me. One was from the FSB, and the other from the district attorneys office. They only wrote down that which they found useful to themselves. Itold them at the time that they were doing nothing useful. They tried to bring me in for questioning once again, but, after consulting with my embassy, Irefused.

I have never received an official letter, or condolences, from either the Russian government or the Russian embassy. Whencolleagues from the Dutch company, where my wife worked as engineer, tried to attend her funeral in Moscow, the Russian embassy would not grant them a visa. It was only at the last minute, when her colleagues had threatened to sic the Dutch press on the embassy, that visas were granted.

While Iwas participating in Zaurs trial, the Russian embassy rejected my entrance visa as well, and did not grant one until NTV, and the Russian and Dutch press reported: The chief witness cannot get a visa.

I later participated in other Nord-Ost trials. Twice Iwas served with subpoenas. Thecourt consequently refused to compensate me for the expenditures connected with my trips to Russia to participate in these sessions. Thisjudicial lawlessness is but another example of what is going on with the Nord-Ost affair in Russia.

I personally wrote this text on January 19th, 2006.

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