Ten years ago on 3 September 2004 at exactly 13:00 in Beslan, North Ossetia, Chechen terrorists allowed the bodies of local people who had been killed and left lying there for three days in front of a school, to be gathered up. On 1 September the 34 Chechen terrorists had taken about 1200 teenagers and children hostage in the school.
Russian soldiers killed in Ukraine
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On 2 September the president of Ingushetia, Ruslan Aushev, who enjoyed much authority in the Northern Caucasus, managed to secure the release of 28 of the hostages. There had been talks with Aslan Maskhadov who had become the president of Chechnya after the death of Jokhar Dudaev. Aslan Maskhadov agreed to come to Beslan on 3 September at around 14:00 to negotiate with the terrorists. And there were people who made every effort to avoid casualties.

A few minutes after 13:00 from a nearby house, Russian soldiers fired into the roof of the school above the sports hall. The hall was full of hostages and terrorists. According to eye witnesses, children were burned alive as the roof was smashed through. Grenades were fired at a wall killing those sitting nearby. A state commission later attempted to explain that these were explosions set off by the terrorists. Ballistic specialists however rejected this lie. Two tanks, which took part in the attack, broke down part of a wall that collapsed on the hostages. Soldiers from the special “Alfa” and “Vympel” units which were joint training that time at a shooting range hastily joined in the attack fifty minutes later. At 14:30 the school was occupied.

Not long before Beslan there was a similar clash in Moscow. On 23 October Chechen terrorists seized a theatre staging the show “Nord-Ost”, together with the spectators. When the building was stormed 130 of the 850 hostages were killed. Only 5 were killed by the terrorists. The rest died from poisoned gas that the “liberators” had sprayed in before the attack. It has been established that 72 people died because they did not receive medical attention. Doctors were of little help to those taken to hospitals because the gas content was kept secret and so medical staff did not know what antidote to use. People were treated like firewood – the unconscious were loaded into ambulances in such a way that on a 30kg little girl lay three adult bodies.

In 2011 the European Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg ordered Russia to pay 1 million euro to 64 victims who had filed a lawsuit.

In a decree never made public, Vladimir Putin decorated Vladimir Pronichev, the Deputy Director of the Federal Security Services (FSS) who headed the operation, as a Hero of Russia.

Mr. Putin was extremely angered by the independent TV station NTV that had continuously aired the protests of the relatives of the hostages. After the operation Boris Jordan, the Managing Director of NTV, was fired and not long afterwards NTV was taken over by the Kremlin.

Treat civilians and soldiers one and the same

There’s no difference in the way Russia treats its civilians or its soldiers and it’s this aspect of Russia that makes it a true successor of Soviet tradition. During the Second World War Soviet generals fed through a constant stream of cannon fodder. Near Berlin, marshals George Zhukov and Konstantin Rokosovsky competed for which onewould be the first to pick the laurels, entered the city, and drove unlucky soldiers into the bullets while they themselves saved their skins from the firing lines. There was no turning back for the soldiers because retreat would be met with machine gun fire from a hedge of embedded insiders from the People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD). Brutal insanity of this kind was later covered up under a shield called “The Feat of the People”.

The fear of publicity was also during the Soviet times when the all-powerful KGB supervised everthing. On 30 July 1981 in the highest instance of Soviets the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) Politburo had discussed the issue of the commemoration of those killed in Afghanistan. It was officially announced that the troops were laid there out of “international respect”. The Chairman of the KGB, Yuri Andropov, in a public meeting explained that they needed to bury the dead with respect, but to commemorate the tribute was premature. Another Politburo member, Andrey Kirilenka, added that to build gravestones was unnecessary. Nikolai Tichonov agreed that the dead needed to be buried - “But are inscriptions needed?” he asked. For the ideology of the party, the one in charge, Michael Suslov, gave even more insight : reports of the death of loved ones have to be brief and standardized.

In 1994 when Boris Yeltsin’s Russia decided to use force to surpress Chechnya’s independence, cannon fodder was once again the choice and covered up as is now happening in the campaign against Ukraine. The Russian Ministry of Defense has recruited military personnel like the former major of Grozny, Beslan Gantemirov, and the former Ministry of Internal Affairs officer, Umar Avturkhanov, and passed them off as collaborators. They were declared a council of the Temporary Republic of Chechnya, which asked Moscow for help just in the same way as calls are coming today from the “People’s Republics of Luhansk and Donetsk”.

The Russians attacked Grozny on 26 November 1994 using armoured vehicles, tanks and aircraft. In defense, Dudayev’s fighters destroyed half of the 42 tanks and the Russians withdrew. Around 50 of the prisoners taken were mercenaries recruited by the FSS. And the Chechens allowed 20 of the regular paratroopers taken prisoner to be shown on television. At that time there were independent TV channels in Russia.

Russia denied its involvement just as it denies its involvement in eastern Ukraine. At that time Dudayev said: if those caught are indeed mercenaries, then we’ll consider them armed thugs and tomorrow we’ll shoot them. However, if Russia admits to them being soldiers, then they are prisoners of war and we’ll treat them in accordance with the international conventions.  

On 1 December, openly admitting involvement, Yeltsin requested assistance for the Russian prisoners of war. Minister of Defense Pavel Grachev flew to meet with Dudayev. The two of them undertook to no longer use force to resolve the conflict. Five days after the general’s promise on 11 December the Russian army in all its terror marched into Chechnya.

Later on the Russians announced that the freed paratroopers “had left their units voluntarily”. In other words, the chief gave no answer as to whether or not the soldiers who had escaped were fighting in Chechnya. The Russian officer corps had written yet another page of shame in its history. Nevertheless, approximately 800 soldiers and officers refused to take part in the Chechen war and Chuvashia announced that it would protect its young men who refused to fight in that war.

The article continues here: Russian Soldiers - cheap and luckless (II)

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