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“By all accounts, the assault was a success”
Written by Ольга Алленова   
Понедельник, 22 Октябрь 2007
Черные дни...On October 23rd, 2002, terrorists seized the theatrical center on Dubrovka, where the musical ‘Nord-Ost’ was playing. During the storming of the building on October 26th, 114 of the 912 hostages were killed, and another 16 died in hospitals. Former Deputy Interior Minister and Chairman of the Parliament Security Committee Vladimir Vasilyev talked with ‘Kommersant’ correspondent Olga Allenova about how he now views the events of five years ago.

 — Five years ago you were one of the key figures during the events at the theatrical center. How do you view the special operation today? Did the authorities do everything possible to save the people?

That I was a key figure is not quite correct. I was authorized to be in contact with the media. I was, as your fellow writers put it, a talking head, and I have asked myself the question that you asked me many times. Was everything possible done? Today I am convinced that all measures, which could have been taken to ensure negotiations to free the people, were adopted.
By the way, negotiations were constantly being held, but the terrorists changed the conditions, and put forward new ones that were not feasible. The assault was launched only after the terrorists started shooting hostages. If you recall the testimony of one of the hostages, he was just talking about this very thing.

 — That the assault would not have taken place, had it not for these murders?

The assault took place because there were deaths, because there was a real threat to the lives of the hostages. By all accounts, according to intelligence officials, parliamentarians and other experts, including foreign ones with whom I have spoken, the assault was successful. So, on what basis are we talking about this? We neutralized the terrorists, under extremely difficult conditions, and prevented an explosion. You remember the auditorium? There were virtually no columns or beams supporting the ceiling. Had the terrorists set off their IEDs, the roof would have instantly collapsed, burying the hostages. On this basis the operational headquarters decided exactly how to carry out the special operation.

 — Do you consider the application of gas to be reasonable? Neither the rescuers on site, nor the doctors in the hospitals — who had no antidote — were ready for this!

I understand your indignation. It was a difficult decision, but it was the optimal one, because the gas immediately knocked out the terrorists and prevented them from triggering their explosive devices. There was no other way to avoid this. The gas, however, paralyzed the hostages as well. Here you are talking about antidotes. I am not a doctor, but I certainly know that, in this situation, what the hostages needed first of all was fresh air. Remove the casualties to the street, lay them on their backs, and, if the tongue lolls back, hold it up so that they do not suffocate. This is even in school first aid programs.

 — Simply fresh air and nothing else, no antidotes, despite the fact that the gas was unusual, and specially designed for such a purpose?

Yes, just fresh air, but working against us were the banal factors of time and place. If you recall, the entrances to the theater center were all packed full of privately owned vehicles, of those who went to the concert. There was a narrow roadway, but it was impossible for several rescue brigades the go there simultaneously. Two ambulances could not drive up at the same time, so when the ambulances drove up to the building one at a time, they were loaded up as full as possible with people in a state of unconsciousness. If the victim was in a sitting position, lack of oxygen sets in, but the doctors knew that they had to get everyone to the hospitals quickly, because time was working against them.

 — So, had there been enough ambulances, and had the hostages been placed inside these on stretchers, more people would have been saved?

Yes, of course. Right there next to the theatrical center was a hospital for war veterans, and those who were brought to that hospital survived because there was enough time to perform the necessary resuscitation.

 — But why it was impossible to remove the vehicles and clear the area, since it was a matter of the life and death for hundreds of people?

Because at the time we had laws that did not allow us to do that, and no one was ready for such a scenario. Unfortunately, a lot had to be learned during this special operation.

 — Back then the authorities demonstrated that they did not negotiate with terrorists. This was the time when this position was first stated. It was again manifested in Beslan, and there are still many questions about whether or not it would have been possible to save people had talks been held with the terrorists.

The fact that one cannot agree with terrorists is not something that we came up with. This is international practice, but we never refused the negotiating process. There are negotiations with terrorists up until a certain time, based on the appropriateness, and then decisions are made based on the threat to the lives of the hostages. During ‘Nord-Ost’, talks were held right up until the terrorists began to kill the hostages.

 — But in Beslan there were no negotiations at all.

You are about to draw an analogy between the ‘Nord-Ost’ and Beslan, but after Beslan we substantially changed legislation, and now we have a system set up to counter terrorism, headed by a National Anti-Terrorist Committee (NAC). The responsibility for countering terrorism, its prevention, and the minimization of its consequences, lies with the FSB. Remember that at Beslan they were constantly asking: “Who’s in charge of this operation?” and “Who’s responsible for everything?” and no one knew who was in charge. Back then there was no legislation to determine this. Now there is clear, vertical accountability. Now from the very first minute everyone knows who is in the operational headquarters, and who is responsible for the consequences of terrorist attack, and who is in charge of everyone.

Let us go back to ‘Nord-Ost’. In those circumstances under which the headquarters was working, the chief of the headquarters could not even give legally binding instructions to the police to remove the vehicles. Today in the NAC there are all heads of the ministries and departments, and when there is a terrorist attack they all automatically fall under the head of the NAC, Patrushev.

 — Are you saying that had the NAC existed back then, things would have been different?

Under the new law, in the first few minutes of a terror act, the head of the operational headquarters defines the area of the counter-terrorist operation (CTO). Within that territory, he can remove vehicles and evacuate individuals that are preventing movement. This area is limited, and only specialists are allowed within. So, a situation like we had in Beslan, where we had all these people, relatives, and journalists, running around the school and endangering themselves and others, this will not happen again. Before the assault on ‘Nord-Ost’, a few people who were trying to enter the building were killed by terrorists, and those vehicles that stood there and closed the road for ambulances, they should have been moved aside with a bulldozer if you could not do it any other way, but back then we did not have such a law. Now there is, and, finally, within the law there is a rule allowing armed forced during a special operation to rescue hostages. If you remember, in the Caucasus sometimes tanks are used when terrorists have seized homes, but then in these cases criminal charges are initiated. Today the law permits the use of all forces and resources required for special operations.

 — But during the storming of the school in Beslan they used heavy equipment, even though law did not yet spell it out.

In Beslan there is an investigation into the use of weapons and equipment, and it will answer every question.

 — In Beslan people were outraged that tanks fired upon the school. Now, it turns out that tanks will be used all the time, but who will guarantee that they will not start shooting when there are hostages in the building?

Heavy equipment will only be used if needed. This is just an arsenal that can be used, but that does not mean that it will necessarily be put to use. The chief of the operational headquarters will decide based of feasibility, as well as from the fact that he is responsible for the outcome of the operation and for people's lives. Who will deliver an order without thinking a hundred times about the consequences, when everyone knows who is responsible for the operation? You see, whoever takes responsibility for managing the headquarters should get every opportunity to do the job well. This is a person who is publicly responsible for everything. Whoever is responsible should be given a complete toolkit, and we gave it to him.

 — According to this law, all journalists can be removed from the CTO zone, and this means that no one at all will know what happened there.
Why do so categorically? The chief of the headquarters may allow the press to be present in his area, but he can also prohibit it. He will do it based on several factors, primarily safety.

 — Judging from my experience, in our country, security officials always find it easier to prohibit, than permit.

Well, you are now reasoning as a journalist. I disagree. People cannot be rescued without certain violations of rights and freedoms. At ‘Nord-Ost’ we complied with all rights and did not even remove cars, and what did it lead to? I am sure that if there had been such a law during the hostage crisis in Beslan, it would have turned out different. Journalists would not have been running around under fire, blocking the commandos’ fields of fire, and there would not have been any of these militias. Everything would have been blocked off, and at once everyone would have known who was in charge of the operation, and whom, down to the last man, was under his control, and so on.

 — I was in Beslan back then, and I remember that the militias, which your law would have removed from the CTO, almost saved more people than the professionals. After all, there were not enough vehicles, stretchers, and people.

You only take fragments of the event. Now, if at ‘Nord-Ost’ a lot of relatives had run in and carried away their loved ones in various directions, some would have been saved, and some would have been killed. I do not presume to judge what there would be more of, those who would have been saved, or those who would have been killed, because professionals should do the rescuing, not ordinary people, many of whom are not even able to give first aid.

 — Who is to blame for the fact that, two years after ‘Nord-Ost’, Beslan happened — the FSB, which did not warn about it, or the police, which did not stop the terrorists?

It is very difficult for me to comment on the events in Beslan. No matter what now I might say, the victims will perceive it painfully. I am very sorry for these people, but I do not presume to judge who is to blame. Imagine how many thousands of schools there are in Russia. How can one protect any of them from a group of terrorists that are moving through Russian in cars, carrying the passports of Russian citizens? Remember how everything was back then. Even during Basayev’s campaign in Budennovsk, it was clear how very difficult it is find people who are going to commit such a crime. It is a different situation today, and today we have learned a lot.

 — But many believe that the intelligence agencies work very badly, especially in the Caucasus. If a group of Beslan militants spent a month getting ready near Psedaha, and the local populace most certainly would know about this, why did the security services not know about it?

No, I do not agree with you, you are deeply mistaken. When they attacked Nazran, recall how many people were killed there, how many relatives of the people there now. Do you think people would have let it happen, had they known it was coming?

 — So, ‘Nord-Ost’ and Beslan were no fault of the security services?

We can impute those who did not have enough operational intelligence, but I dare not judge them. I know in real life those who now work in these structures, and how much they get and what demands are placed on them. At the cemetery in Beslan, near the graves of the hostages, there is a monument to the security service commandos who lost their lives saving people. These are heroes. By the way, in order to help the security services, the law against terrorism allows monitoring of all telephone and other conversations, and control of entire broadcast wavelength. This is for prevention and mitigation of consequences.

 — Based on all this, I conclude that during the assault in Beslan it was a complete mess and no one was responsible for anything, just because we did not have a law on the struggle against terrorism?

I was not in Beslan. You were, so you can make a better assessment than I. I only know that the situation was very complicated, and I can understand that people, who have been under this stress for three years already, what their assessments might be. I was with the ‘Mothers of Beslan’ committee on the third anniversary, and they reminded me of what I said during ‘Nord-Ost’, that we do not negotiate with terrorists. It took great effort to explain that it was not about that. Negotiations were conducted, and will be conducted, but only along certain lines, or until they start killing people. They also reminded me about how I said that we could not carry out the terrorists’ demands regarding Dzasokhov and other leaders. Yes, I believe that it is impossible to hand anyone over to terrorists at their request, except in cases where these persons volunteer.

 — Even if this was the only way to save several hundred people?

Well, we have certainly gotten sidetracked. Do you have certain scales that you can use to weigh the life of one man against the lives of several? I do not. Are you sure that this person will not be killed and the others will really be released? With whom are we dealing? With the people who are doing the killing! So, let us hand me over to them, or you. This is not a legal approach, do you understand? As a matter of fact, the State should protect all its citizens, whether the president or an ordinary citizen. How can the State grab the president of a republic and hand him over to be shot?

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  Comments (1)
1. Работа над безошибочностью
Written by Владимир Темный website, on 24-10-2007 11:45

Государственные люди не любят вспоминать о трагедии на Дубровке — ни президент, ни фигуры рангом пониже. Здесь чиновнику надо напряженно лавировать между правдой и вымыслом. И чем дальше от нас те события, тем очевиднее угроза опростоволоситься, придерживаясь официального взгляда на «Норд-Ост». Что и имело место неоднократно. Но есть в обойме власти люди, которым сам черт не брат – когда угодно, с любой трибуны могут отстаивать официальную трактовку трагедии «Норд-Оста», сохраняя при этом благородную осанку и прямой взгляд честного служаки. Таков депутат и генерал Владимир Васильев.

В канун пятой годовщины захвата заложников на Дубровке он взялся отвечать на вопросы журнала «Коммерсант-Власть». Тот самый замминистра внутренних дел (а ныне председатель думского комитета по безопасности), что утром 26 октября 2002 года вышел к журналистам и объявил о 67 погибших заложниках. «Была информация,— сказал он,— что многие погибли от спецсредств, которые применялись при проведении операции. Это не так». И еще – среди погибших детей нет. Словом, не так все плохо.

Скажут, нехорошо припоминать ему эту, мягко говоря, недостоверную информацию – по горячим следам ошибки неизбежны. Но и сегодня, сделав лишь поправки на цифры, «говорящая голова» продолжает свою работу — информирует о той «успешной спецоперации».

Генерал, как и прежде, считает, что штурм был вынужденным, применение газа – оправданным, гибель людей — следствием форс-мажорных обстоятельств («нас подвели место и погода»). Но в ночь с 25 на 26 октября до начала штурма в зале на Дубровке не стреляли. Газ, якобы моментально усыпивший всех боевиков, как раз на некоторых из них подействовал в последнюю очередь – они отстреливались около 20 минут (и никто почему-то за это время не рванул заряды). А большинству из погибших заложников помощь не была оказана вообще. Их просто не приняли во внимание, готовя газовую атаку.

Это факты, они задокументированы в материалах следствия, в показаниях свидетелей. О них не раз заявляли в СМИ родственники погибших, активисты РОО «Норд-Ост». Но «говорящая голова» (так Васильев сам определяет свою роль в тех событиях) их не слышит, продолжает гнуть свое, да еще обогащает события пятилетней давности новыми деталями. Например, уверяет: убрать автотранспорт, очистить территорию на подступах к театральному центру мешало «отсутствие законодательства», потому, мол, и «скорая помощь» оказалась не скорой. В действительности же на прилегающих улицах частные машины убирали с дороги без всяких церемоний, а перед самим зданием театра не трогали сначала из опасения оказаться под огнем снайперов, а уже ближе к штурму – чтобы не вызвать подозрений у боевиков. Но Васильеву надо присочинить про «законодательство» И при этом он не понимает жуткого смысла сказанного: ведь получается, что в глазах правоохранительных органов риск судебного решения о выплате компенсации владельцам перемещенных автомобилей перевесил заботу о жизнях людей.

Охи и ахи по поводу несовершенного законодательства, будто бы пудовыми гирями висевшего на руках у штаба по освобождению заложников, призваны оттенить грань между прошлым и настоящим. Хаос в дни «Норд-Оста», по Васильеву, царил такой, что невозможно было определить, кто руководит операцией, кто принимает решение (окончательно с этим, видимо, определились только в день раздачи золотых звезд героев в Кремле). Однако ко времени захвата «Норд-Оста» уже четыре года действовала ст.12 закона «О борьбе с терроризмом», в которой указано, кто и при каких обстоятельствах возглавляет штаб контртеррористической операции. Из нее, между прочим, следовало, что назначал руководителя штаба президент Российской Федерации. И уже с того момента никто не вправе был соваться к руководителю штаба со своими указаниями. Но вот, опять же по Васильеву, и в дни «Норд-Оста», и в дни Беслана «никто не понимал, кто руководил, – тогда законодательством это не было определено».

На самом же деле все было определено и прописано до последней запятой. Но в то же время Васильев говорит правду – старшего было не докричаться. Никто в ответчиках ходить не собирался. Ни тогда, ни позднее, в Беслане. И сейчас не собирается. Хотя и законов с тех пор напринимали кучу, вплоть до прав и обязанностей служебно-розыскной собаки в период проведения контртеррористической операции. Пальцем не шевельнет даже сидящий на вершине пирамиды НАК директор ФСБ, пока не раздастся глас свыше. И неважно, будет ли это «Газы!» или «Фугасным, прямой наводкой, пли!» – выполнят. И спасут тех, кого не убьют. Пусть и чертыхаясь, будучи как-никак профессионалами.

А вот Владимир Васильев и чертыхаться не будет. «Говорящая голова» готова к выполнению новых заданий государственной важности.

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