- In the Moscow Times, Yulia Latynina writes that the North Ossetian parliamentary report on what happened at Beslan points a finger:
The upshot is that one of the command centers in Beslan set out to eliminate the terrorists, not to free the hostages. For this group, it would have been very convenient if the hostages were removed from the equation. Troops could then move in and wipe out the bad guys, and civilian deaths could be blamed on a miscue by the terrorists.
The simplest way to accomplish this would be to set off the terrorists' own bomb. But here they ran into a little problem: The snipers couldn't get a clear shot at the terrorist with his foot on the detonator.
This problem was resolved with the help of a grenade launcher. Did the feds have the plans for the school? Yes. Did the plans indicate where the basketball hoop was attached to the wall? Yes. Did they know the bomb was hung up in the hoop? Yes.
The snipers needed a clear shot. A soldier with a grenade launcher could fire from the roof of any nearby apartment building.
- RFE/RL reports that
a top Muslim cleric in the Russian Federation has reiterated calls on the Russian government to remove what he says are Orthodox symbols from the national coat of arms. Nafigulla Ashirov, the chief mufti of the Asian part of Russia, says its religious undertones violate the principle of secularity. But Muslim leaders say the issue merely raises broader concerns about what they denounce as the growing influence of the Russian Orthodox Church in state affairs.
- The Washington Post asks:
Is Russia a partner of the United States in the war on terrorism? You wouldn't know it from the bitter campaign Moscow is waging to thwart President Bush's democracy agenda in Muslim Central Asia. Mr. Bush rightly believes that political liberalization in the energy-rich and mostly authoritarian republics that lie north of Iran and Afghanistan is essential to denying al Qaeda and other Islamic extremist movements influence or bases in the region. Yet Moscow insists on portraying U.S. encouragement of free media and free elections as a plot to extend Western influence at Russia's expense. Russian President Vladimir Putin offers a warm embrace to any autocrat who rejects reform.
- And President Putin, after talking with Ukraine’s President Yushchenko, says he is “satisfied with Ukraine’s readiness to amend the gas prices regime”, having yesterday complained that ties with Ukraine were unsatisfactory.