10/27/2012, 00.00
RUSSIA
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Church consecrated on site of Dubrovka theater massacre

by Nina Achmatova
The ceremony took place during the commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the massacre of people on 26 October 2002, during the Russian special forces blitz on the building taken hostage by Chechen terrorists that killed at least 130 people. The silence of the authorities and the still unanswered questions on one of the most serious attacks in contemporary Russian history.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - The bells of the church dedicated to Saints Cyril and Methodius in Moscow rang for the first time during the ceremony to commemorate the 130 victims of the tragedy at Dubrovka theater. On 26 October, the 10th anniversary of the blitz in which the Russian special forces ended a three days siege of the theater by a group of Chechen terrorists, the church was consecrated in the presence of relatives of the killed hostages.

On 23 October 2002, terrorists stormed the building, which was presenting the popular musical 'Nord-Ost', taking 916 hostages, spectators and artists, including 100 children, demanding the withdrawal, without any conditions, of Russian troops engaged in the second Chechen war. The siege went on for three days, until the arrival of special forces. Most of the hostages were freed, but the human cost was high: 130 deaths, according to official figures, 174 according to independent associations. 39 terrorists were killed in the attack, including some women.

In a Moscow wet from the first snow fall, about 200 relatives of the victims gathered in the total absence of the authorities, to commemorate the tragic event. Many flowers and candles, and 130 balloons were launched into the air, after the reading of the names and age of many victims. No message from the Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev, or the President Vladimir Putin not even in those tragic days like today, at the head of the Kremlin. The survivors, in tears in front of the theater, were not surprised: "In ten years no one ever came to us, not even to express support, it's nothing new."

For the relatives of the victims, the main cause of the massacre was the inhalation of a sleeping gas, released in the theater through the ventilation system to facilitate the eruption of the SWAT team. Moscow has always denied the charges, but refused to disclose the composition of the substance classified as a "state secret." "Those people died not for the effects of the gas, which was not harmful - Putin said, after a few months, - but for various reasons such as dehydration and chronic diseases", linked to the conditions in which they were held hostage. Poisoning caused by the mysterious gas was crippling, at different levels, for many of the 700 survivors.

In December, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ordered Russia to pay a total of  1.3 million Euros to 64 former hostages and relatives of victims who have had the strength to carry on their legal battle. The judges acknowledged that the Special Forces blitz was "legitimate", but they pointed out some shortcomings in the organization of rescue operations. So now the victims' families are preparing an appeal to the EU to shed light on the responsibilities of the authorities.

"It seemed that no one could ever forget. But 10 years later, no one in Russia wants to remember this tragedy," Moscow newspaper Bolshoi Gorod, wrote on its website. It then launched a series of questions that have remained unanswered: "Who was the organizer and how did dozens of militants organize a terrorist attack in the capital? Why was a raid decided and why did the hostages die?".

 

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