August 28, 2006 -- A member of the Russian parliamentary commission investigating the 2004 Beslan hostage crisis says it may be federal forces, and not the militants orchestrating the siege, who started the final battle that claimed the vast majority of victims.
Yury Savelyev, an explosives expert and a Duma deputy with the Motherland (Rodina) party, says in a report published today in the "Novaya gazeta" weekly that forensic evidence suggests the battle may have been started by Russian soldiers firing rocket grenades from a building across from the school that was the site of the hostage siege.
Some federal investigators say it was the detonation of bombs planted inside the school by the hostage takers that caused a massive fire and sparked a gun battle in which the majority of the 330-plus siege victims were killed. Members of the investigating commission called Savelyev's report a "deliberate falsification."
The report comes just days before the second anniversary of the September 1-3 siege.
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The website pravdabeslana.ru has posted a 700-page, six-part report by Yury Savelyev, a member of the Russian State Duma commission that investigated the September 2004 Beslan hostage taking, including the events that triggered the storm of the school in which most of the 332 victims died. Savelev claimed that the authorities were aware of the impending seizure of the school at least three hours in advance; that an initial proposal by then-North Ossetian President Aleksandr Dzasokhov to try to persuade the hostage takers to release the children in exchange for 800 government personnel was rejected, and Dzasokhov was threatened with arrest if he sought to negotiate with the hostage takers; that the authorities decided to storm the school building, but create the impression that they did so in response to actions by the hostage takers; and security personnel opened fire on the school building from mortars and flame-throwers while the hostages were still inside the building. The initial findings of the Duma commission faulted local police and officials for their response to the hostage taking, but Russian Deputy Prosecutor-General Nikolai Shepel said an investigation by his office failed to establish any failings on the part of law enforcement agencies during the siege (see "RFE/RL Newsline," December 29, 2005). The commission's official investigative report is expected to be released in September. LFThe Russian text of the Savelyev report is here.