09/01/2006, 00.00
RUSSIA
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Two years after tragedy, Beslan tries to live again

On the second anniversary of the tragedy at School No. 1, the Bishop of Stavropol and Vladikavkaz led a prayer over the tombs of the victims and praised the "courage" of the people, who did not react with violence in their sorrow. In the region, commemoration events are planned over the weekend. In Moscow, rallies and pickets are banned. Relatives say their grief has been "worsened" by the silence of the authorities.

Beslan (AsiaNews) – Wreathes of flowers on the walls, mothers and other relatives of the victims in tears, and doctors on standby, ready to assist any of the 800 people present who could fall ill due to emotion or the heat. This is the scene this morning in the area around the school grounds of School No. 1 of Beslan, North Ossetia, where two years ago, at this precise moment, Chechen and Ingushetian terrorists had already taken more than 1,000 adults and children hostage on the first day of school. The hostage-taking ended in a bloodbath, with an official death toll of 332, including 186 children. The kidnappers were calling for Chechnya's independence.  

Today, prayers are being said in all Orthodox Churches for victims of the tragic event, about which many say the full truth has yet to be told. The Russian Orthodox Bishop of Stavropol and Vladikavkaz, Feofan, has gone to Belsan. The bishop led a prayer "over the tombs of those who died in the tragedy"; tomorrow, he will celebrate mass in the cemetery. "Today, not only Russia, but the whole world has come together with the Ossetian people for this day of sorrow and sadness," said Feofan. The bishop said "life has continued; now we can say it. Before, you could never have imagined seeing smiles on the faces of those mothers who lost their children here. Now, although they are still rare, smiles can be seen: this is the return to life." He added: "I don't know what people could have supported this tragedy without plunging into violence. The people of Ossetia have shown great self-control and courage in facing their difficulties."

In North Ossetia, a region of southern Russia, several events are planned to commemorate the tragedy. On 3 September at 1.05pm – the time when Russian Special Forces stormed the school, leading to the slaughter – white balloons will be let loose into the air, one for each victim. But there will no rallies in Moscow, where the City Hall has officially forbidden "rallies and picketing" on 3 September.

Most probably government representatives will not attend the commemoration events. The renowned "Mothers of Beslan" committee has warned them not to "dare to show up". Survivors and mothers of the victims say the "government campaign to hide the truth and deflect responsibility from state officials about what happened on 3 September 2004 has only worsened the pain of our losses over the years". Relatives of the victims are convinced the Russian government and special forces are really to blame for the tragic outcome of the school siege.

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