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Beslan Day
Written by Иван СУХОВ   
Понедельник, 03 Сентябрь 2007

During the last three days the number of victims of the worst terror act in the history of our country has risen.

Today at exactly 1:05 pm Moscow time white balloons will rocket up into the sky above the partially-destroyed school building in Beslan – 334 of them – the number that died on that day three years ago. More specifically, there will be three more than on the first anniversary.

In this school on September 1–3, 2004, what was probably the worst terrorist act in modern Russian history occurred. A group of terrorists broke right into the celebratory promenade on Knowledge Day (the first day of school celebration), and took almost 1200 hostages – children, parents, and teachers. Almost one-fourth of the hostages died during the assault on September 3rd — from bullets, explosions, and in the flames of the ensuing fire.

The first days in September in Russia will never again be nothing more than the beginning of the school year, and loud celebrations of the next Moscow anniversary will always be gloomy with mourning Beslan – even if there are but 300 people remembering Beslan on Bolotnaya Square among the roar of the Moscow City Day celebrations. Those assembled will mainly be victims of other terror acts who have come to express their solidarity: relatives of those who remain in the ruins of collapsed apartment buildings in the fall of 1999, or of those who died at the theatrical center on Dubrovka in October of 2002.

On the year of the tragedy Moscow authorities had enough tact to cancel most of the celebrations. This grief-filled date in later years did not fall quite so close to the capital city’s carnivals. On the third anniversary, however, the day of mourning has been thoroughly taken out of brackets and sent out to Bolotnaya Square and mentioned in but two phrases during the first day of school celebrations. This small army of terrorism victims asks too many questions that cause headaches on normal days, to say nothing about a holiday. The authorities, perhaps, feel the same as a majority of people, for whom that day in 2004 in Beslan was someone else’s tragedy, and nothing more than pictures on the television screen. It makes no difference whether it is Osetia, Chechnya, Ingushetia, it is only residents of the Caucasus attacking each other. This indifference is really a sign of sickness — it is difficult to imagine a municipal holiday anywhere in the United States on a September 11th. In this regards, apparently, we are freer than the freest.

Scarcely noticeable against a background of Moscow fireworks, two bits of news arrived from North Osetia. The lawyer for the Beslan Mothers Committee, Taimuraz Chedzhemov, is ready to quit working further on the case concerning 1–3 September 2004, due to outside pressure. The lawyer cannot work on business or other cases, because of pressure for his uncompromising position. His position that it should not just be Kulayev – the lone surviving terrorist who was sentenced to life imprisonment – answering for the deaths of people in Beslan, but several Russian officials, including officers from the operational headquarters who were working during those awful days.

The second victims’ organization, ‘Voice of Beslan’, was ordered by one of the Vladikavkaz courts to change its composition. “This is judicial piracy, pure and simple,” said Ella Kesayeva of ‘Voice of Beslan’ in an interview on Vremeni Novosti. “The constitution forbids the authorities from interfering in the internal affairs of public organizations, and moreover, the court decision was specially made just a few days before the anniversary.” In Kesayeva’s opinion, recently certain people have joined ‘Voice of Beslan’ who are ready to work with the authorities and not ask uncomfortable questions about the operational headquarters’ responsibility for the deaths of people, i.e.: staff officers who are in fact the leaders of the FSB and Internal Ministry.

Ella Kesayeva hopes that after the elections there will be a real shift in the investigation. She also reported that in June the Strasbourg human rights court received the Beslan victims’ complaint against Russia.

Residents of Beslan are complaining that the government violated their right to an objective investigation of the crime against them, their right to access to investigative materials, and their right to an adequate legal defense. The Strasbourg court is slow, but the victims, in their opinion, have a greater chance for justice there. In Paris, meanwhile, as Moscow celebrates City Day, there was a demonstration of remembrance and solidarity with the victims of the Beslan tragedy.

By Ivan Sukhov

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