Moscow pressed to identify siege gas

  • From: "Muslim News" <editor_@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <submit@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sun, 27 Oct 2002 10:10:47 -0000

 Armed Russian policeman outside Moscow hospital with anxious relatives
Hostages are not being let out of hospital

Authorities in Russia are coming under increasing pressure to reveal
details about the type of gas used by special forces in a raid which
ended a three-day siege at a Moscow theatre. 

At least 390 freed hostages remained in hospital on Sunday, many in a
serious condition after being overcome by the effects of the gas. 

 Medics attend an unidentified hostage outside the theatre
Many of the freed hostages are in a serious condition

According to reports, Russian officials have instructed doctors not to
let survivors out of hospital in case there are some hostage-takers
hiding among the victims. 

More than 90 hostages and up to 50 Chechen rebels died when troops
stormed the theatre on Saturday, releasing about 750 Russian and foreign

 <> Click here to
read dramatic eyewitness accounts of the rescue operation 

Russian President Vladimir Putin made an emotional television address
hours after the raid, in which he appealed for forgiveness for not
having saved all the captives. 

But, he said, "We achieved the near impossible, saving hundreds,
hundreds of people," adding that "Russia cannot be brought to its

Mystery gas 

The special forces stormed the complex after pumping in the unidentified
potent gas to disable the Chechen rebels. 

The gas also incapacitated many of their hostages, leaving some
unconscious, with breathing problems and memory loss. 

 Vladimir Putin
Putin praised the operation which ended the siege

A BBC correspondent in Moscow, Jonathan Charles, says the Russian
authorities are maintaining an air of mystery, describing the gas used
only as a "special substance". 

Military experts believe it could have been based on an hallucinogenic
drug - one never deployed before in such circumstances. 

Russian Deputy Interior Minister Vladimir Vasilyev said none of the
hostages died from inhaling the gas. 

His statement conflicted with a report on Moscow Radio which quoted
doctors as saying some captives might have choked on their own vomit
after breathing in fumes. 

Mr Vasilyev said nine hostages died because of heart problems, shock, or
lack of medicine, but the authorities have not yet given a clear
explanation of how the other hostages or rebels lost their lives. 

At first, all the 70 or so foreign hostages were believed to have
survived, but on Sunday the Dutch Foreign Ministry said one of its
nationals, Natalja Zjirova, died from gas poisoning. 

Hospital clamp-down 

Distraught families have been clamouring for information about relatives
who are being held at medical facilities across Moscow, but so far they
are not being allowed inside. 

 Anxious relatives outside Hospital Number 13
Police are not letting relatives into hospitals

Officially, there are 40 patients who are still unconscious, but even
those who have fully recovered are not being allowed out. 

Police believe some of the Chechen rebels might be posing as civilian
victims and they want to screen all the patients. 

Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov has launched a Moscow-wide operation to
catch anyone who might have helped the rebels and 30 people have been

The deputy Interior Minister also urged the public to report anyone
acting suspiciously to police, while patrols are on the streets of
Moscow carrying out on-the-spot identity checks. 

However, Mr Gryzlov has also ordered measures to prevent outbursts of
anti-Chechen feeling in Russia, echoing a call for people not to seek
revenge by President Putin on Friday. 

Chechnya's elected president, Aslan Maskhadov, said he felt responsible
for those "who resorted to self-sacrifice in despair" though the rebels,
he said, had nothing to do with official policy. 

In a statement published on a Chechen website, President Maskhadov said
the "barbaric and inhumane policies" of the Russian leadership were
ultimately to blame and criticised the storming of the theatre. 

Source: BBC online

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