09/01/2005, 00.00
RUSSIA
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Accused of collusion with the terrorists, Beslan teachers write to Putin

In a letter to the President, teachers demand the truth about the massacre be revealed. Children are losing trust in adults, whilst parents suspect the school system of corruption.

Beslan (AsiaNews) – Ceremonies commemorating the anniversary of the Beslan massacre began today, but those who lost loved ones are still asking themselves who is really responsible for it. In the meantime, survivors live with a sense of guilt.

Teachers at School Nº1 are among the silent victims of the tragedy in the North Ossetian town. In a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, they accuse local authorities and the government of indifference and warn that if their reputation is not restored, new generations will lose faith in adults and the school system.

"Our school [. . .] was suddenly threatened with complete annihilation," the teachers write. "We—the teachers—have been the object of constant criticism all year. We were accused of surviving. We were accused of non-fulfillment of our professional duties (while only special forces troops are professionals in those situations). [. . .] All this affected both us and our students and undermined our authority in their opinion. The soil has already been prepared: the children's belief in adults was strongly undermined after the terror act. If we fail to uphold our positions, this belief will be undermined once and for all."

Beslan teachers were the first to set up a committee of volunteers to help ex-hostages only to be later accused of stealing the money sent from abroad. What is more, some people who lost relatives have repeatedly accused the teachers and especially the head mistress, Lidya Tsalieva, of cooperating with the terrorists before and during the attack.

"We were all in the gym hall," the letter said. "Death threatened us, and many of our colleagues died. Many of those who survived lost their children and relatives. We, too, have the right to be called victims. And like all the people of Beslan we also want to know the names of those who were guilty of killing our people." But finding the truth is impossible, the letter to Putin says, "without your resolute actions".

The letter concludes with a direct appeal to the President. "You are the guarantor of the Constitution," it says, "and thus, the guarantor of our children's peaceful life and education. We believe that you will help us to provide it."

According to victims' relatives, the local authorities are the real culprits—guilty for having allowed the terrorists to infiltrate the building months before it was taken over—and the incompetent central government, which allowed Special Forces to storm the school without making any real attempt at mediation thus triggering the massacre

Some days ago, Chechen leader Shamil Basayev said that the terrorists reached Beslan with the help of Russian secret services as part of a trap that was botched. Government sources have however denied this version of the facts.

In spite of repeated requests by the people of Beslan, in the past year Putin has never met with either victims' relatives or the school's teaching staff.

The President only travelled to the site of the slaughter on the night of September 3 where he spent a few hours meeting local authorities.

Despite their doubts about his sincerity, a delegation from the Mothers of Beslan Committee will go to the Kremlin tomorrow invited by the President.

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