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Kremlin prevented release of foreigners
Written by Маркус Венер   
Среда, 30 Октябрь 2002
In ‘Frankfurter Allgemeine’, Russian translation by ‘Inopressa’
 
Western security services evaluate Moscow hostage drama
 
According to Western security services, the Russian leadership prevented the release of foreigners taken hostage at the Moscow theater center. “It prevented this in order to brand the hostage takers as international terrorists and so that no one could call them Chechen freedom fighters,” an employee of a European intelligence service told our newspaper. The goal of the Russian leadership was achieved by UN Security Council condemnation of the hostage taking as an act of international terrorism. Therefore, the Russian leadership “behaved very cautiously,” when receiving the proposal to release all foreigners on Thursday, the first morning after the capture of the music center.
Nine foreigners were among the 117 killed in the assault.
 
With its refusal, the Kremlin wanted to frustrate Chechen plans to present the hostage taking to the international community as part of the war between Russia and Chechnya, Western intelligence agencies concluded. By their intent to release the foreigners, the hostage takers wished to demonstrate that they were waging war exclusively against Russia. Moscow, for its part, needed to raise the terrorist act “to the international level.” The Security Council on Thursday night, Moscow time, accepted the Russian proposal for an appropriate resolution. Only afterwards was the Russian leadership ready to return to the proposal to release foreigners. Meanwhile, however, the terrorists realized that they needed the foreigners as a “shield”, since otherwise the probability of an immediate assault by Russian security forces would dramatically increase. On Thursday morning, many Western envoys rushed to the theater. At the time, the Austrian ambassador spoke about the coming release of the hostages. Some Russian authorities reported that the terrorists wanted to transfer foreigners located in the theater center to diplomats of their respective countries, but the Russian government had no comment. At first it was stated that foreign hostages would be released at 9 am, then the release was postponed to 9:30, and later still to 11 o’clock. Shortly before noon, a Kremlin press center representative reported that the release of foreign hostages would not take place because diplomats from countries whose nationals had been taken hostage did not arrive at the theater center at 9 am, the time appointed by the terrorists.
 
Ambassadors were dissatisfied with this assessment, and later the Russian side offered an apology. A representative of the Russian operational headquarters said late on Thursday: “Information that a meeting between the diplomats and the terrorists did not take place due to the late arrival of the diplomats is inconsistent with the facts.”
 
In addition, a Kremlin representative, according to the ‘Interfax’ news agency, issued the following theory: the terrorists had raised new demands for the release of foreigners, in particular, they were demanding the presence of representatives from the organization ‘Doctors without Borders’. Unfortunately, however, there were none in Moscow, he added. This, however, is also inconsistent with the facts — the doctors were on the scene on Thursday, and even gave television interviews. In addition, as further stated by the Kremlin spokesman, the terrorist leaders had either switched off their cell phones, or were not answering, while the rest of the terrorists supposedly could not do anything while their leaders were resting. One can assume that these reports were targeted disinformation for the public, in order to explain the failure to release the foreigners.
 
Almost immediately after the capture of the music center, the Chechen terrorists announced that they would release not only Muslims, but also all foreigners. Some of the foreigners in the hall, understanding the situation, were able to leave the building by showing a passport. On Thursday morning, information about the coming release of another 30 foreign hostages appeared on the Islamic extremists’ website. The terrorists wanted to release all foreigners on Thursday morning, according to reports by Chechens who made contact with them by phone. On Thursday, Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov’s representative in Azerbaijan, Ali Asayev, said in an interview with the Azeri newspaper ‘Zerkalo’ that he phoned the terrorists at 9 pm Moscow time. In the interview, he stated his belief that the terrorists had already released the foreigners as promised.
 
By releasing children and the sick hostages, the terrorists repeatedly tried to defuse the situation. The Kremlin, in contrast, according to security officials, put on a “strategy of frustration” by not responding to the terrorist proposals, and not appointing an envoy to negotiate. “They were just marking time,” was the assessment of intelligence personnel.
 
Zakayev, Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov’s personal representative in Europe, during the World Chechen Congress in Copenhagen accused the Russian government of storming the music center in order to prevent the terrorists from releasing the hostages. On the night before the assault, the terrorists spoke by cell phone and stated that they were going to release all the hostages the following morning. After this, the authorities carried out an assault in order to “ensure that the Chechens couldn’t become heroes.” Over the weekend, Zakayev, on behalf of Maskhadov, condemned the hostage taking, but laid the blame on Russia.

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