Thursday, September 01, 2005

Kesayev: Beslan Questions

In Yezhednevnyi Zhurnal, Marina Litvinovich has an interview with Stanislav Kesayev, head of the North Ossetian parliamentary commission that is looking into the events at Beslan a year ago, and making its own inquiries and conclusions. Some of what Kesayev reports is disturbing indeed [my tr. from Russian]:
Today I have carefully read the shorthand record of the first court session, and there, in the prosecution’s summing-up to Kulayev, the public prosecutor’s representative talks of 31 fighters, Kulayev himself talks of 32, but what is your version? How many of them were there, actually?

I haven’t read the prosecution’s summing-up in detail, I don’t follow the trial in detail, for perfectly understandable reasons. I only read the reports in the newspapers, and no more than that. After all, we are conducting an independent investigation. When high-ranking officials attempt to convince me, and do so at a press conference, moreover, that they have obtained some reliable information from Kulayev’s testimony, it looks awfully like a “staging”, if you will excuse the street expression.. I see no convincing arguments, except for, "apparently". Kulayev’s testimony, which confirms that there were exactly 32 fighters. I can begin to adduce arguments. If this was an illegal military formation, and if Colonel Khuchbarov was entrusted with a definite number of men whom he, as commander, had to deliver somewhere, and if there was, to put it quite crudely, a list of personnel who went into action somewhere – well, if all those documents were found in Maskhadov's archives, then perhaps I would place some faith in that. And all that is quite apart from the fact that this number of fighters took such a large number of hostages, the area of school, the testimony of witnesses... I was astonished by the unwillingness of the official investigation to work on the camouflage clothing which lay about in the school and on which I focused attention and said that it could be taken away for expert biological examination. I have more circumstantial reasons for supposing that there were more than 32 fighters, than I have reasons for believing that 32 was the true number. Especially because the public prosecutor’s office itself has softened the hardness of its formulations and now speaks more softly: "Today it is possible to assert..." and so on. Thank God they have stopped saying that anyone who states a figures than 32 is a provocateur and an enemy of Russia.

According to the public prosecutor’s version, 17 of the fighters who seized the school have been identified. Has your commission traced their history? Did they figure in any crime reports, are they listed in any police files, had they been detained before, and so on?

You understand, we have not yet had time, nor, let us say, any wish to... Although in one of his interviews the public prosecutor’s attempted to reproach me for directing the search towards our neighbours < Ingush are meant - interviewer > in order to somehow turn this to advantage. This does not bother us at all. The fact that our neighbours were present among the fighters, and in the overwhelming majority, was immediately clear from many pointers. Thus, when on the evening of September 1 they brought a woman, an Ingush, with her children so that she could talk to her husband or someone, all these variations and versions are sewn with white threads. We never planned to search for an Ingush trace and were never planning to organize vengeance, and those are not the words of an official, but the position of a citizen. The fate of those scoundrels does not interest us.

I had in mind not their nationality, but their criminal records...

I understand. It was enough for me that the same Khodov, who was "apparently" identified, continued for several months to figure in the inquiry on the Interior Ministry (MVD) website. And within me the question arose: was he killed, then? Or are there officials who are idlers, are there officials who don’t want to act, who are talking to him and continuing to hold him?….

Among the fighters there were at the very least several people whose names are recorded in places of judicial detention. For this reason major doubts are aroused by the fact that in the official version it is precisely they who have been included in the number of identified terrorists. I’m made wary by the fact that the list of names is rather frequently corrected.

But there are no explanations - why?

As I say – so far we have not dealt with this. The explanation is very simple: beginning from the trivial "escaped" and concluding with the fact that he "was necessary". There are the facts of Khodov’s biography. This is not some Terminator or Rambo, who yesterday chased his fellow villagers with an automatic weapon, was then detained, and subsequently released. What did he do, bribe all and sundry right there on the spot, so he’d be let out in the morning? Any schoolboy, who reads detective stories will understand that there is something not quite right here.

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