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Moscow Hostage Drama: First Anniversary

Authorities haves classified everything, even conscience
A year ago, the whole of the world learnt about the terrible hostage taking at the Moscow theatre. Over 800 spectators who came to see the Nord Ost musical on October 23, 2002 were taken hostage by Chechen terrorists. According to official data, 129 people died as a result of the terrorist act. Today, on the day of the tragic anniversary, the investigation of the crime is incomplete. Russia's television NTV reports that the investigation is to be finished by March 2004.

As of today, Zaurbek Talkhidov is the only criminal convicted in connection with the act of terrorism and sentenced to 8.5 years for assistance to terrorists. The organizers of the hostage taking, including terrorist Shamil Basayev, were sentenced in their absence. However, officials guilty concerning the death of innocent lives during the storming of the building have not been identified. Relatives and friends of the Nord Ost victims have joined efforts pressing for an independent investigation. But the investigation has not yet achieved any results. The claims of Nord Ost victims have been rejected by a court; the claims to compensate psychological pain have also not been met. The Moscow City government believes that it has settled all accounts with the victims. But the victims of the terrorist act disagree with this opinion.

Today, a memorial is to be opened near the theatre center in Moscow: this is a composition of bronze cranes shooting upwards from a pedestal made of white granite. The memorial was made on the back of Moscow City government decision; Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov is expected to take part in the memorial opening ceremony. At the request of relatives of the Nord Ost victims, the names of the people who tragically died during the act of terrorism will be engraved on a memorial plate. On Sunday, October 26, a service for the dead is to be held in front of the theatre center in Moscow.

Meanwhile, Russian law activists demand that other individuals must be brought to court for the hostage taking drama; what is more, they have caught President Vladimir Putin in a lie. Yesterday at a press-conference in Moscow, law activists from several large organizations said they demanded to press criminal proceedings against officials guilty of the musical tragedy. 

The law activists intend to appeal to the European Human Rights Commission concerning how Russia's authorities handled the crisis, an official statement of the Obshcheye Delo (Common Action) group says. The All-Russia public movement For People's Rights also claims that the acting prosecutor of Moscow must institute three more criminal proceedings in connection with the hostage drama. 

The number of Russians supporting the actions of the authorities during the release of the Nord Ost hostages has dropped by 20 per cent. According to opinion polls, 63 per cent of Russians give a positive estimate to the actions of authorities during the Nord Ost hostage release. 32 per cent of the respondents do not think the actions were correct. A year ago, 85 per cent of Russians approved of the actions of the authorities during the storm of the theatre center. Only 10 per cent estimated the actions as negative (this year, the percentage is three times bigger).

Today, 37 per cent of Russians say that use of gas was the main reason why the hostages died during the storm of the theatre. 26 per cent of respondents say that terrorists were guilty of the death of the hostages; 20 per cent say that people suffered during the terrorist act were not given immediate medical aid; 10 per cent of respondents stated other reasons explaining why the number of victims was so great.

As of today, the majority of Russians, 91 per cent, think that events similar to the Nord Ost hostage drama may once again repeat in the country. Only 7 per cent believe that a tragedy of this kind will never repeat.