Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Muscovites Support Storming of Village

From bars to book shops, Muscovites showed widespread support Tuesday for the Russian storming of the Dagestani village of Pervomaiskoye, and several advocated the use of more, rather than less force.

"The government is doing everything right," pensioner Yury Ivanov, 56, said, as he examined a display of model tank kits at the House of Military Books. "The hostages have to be freed and the army should pummel those terrorists into powder without having to face judgment or consequences."

Yeltsin's decision Monday to send Russian troops to storm the village to secure the release of about 100 Chechen-held hostages was praised even by those who oppose the war against the rebels.

Hunched over a plate of stolichny potato salad in a cafe on Moscow's Garden Ring, Sergei Dolotov, 40, demanded more action than the Russian Army currently is taking.

"They should be following a much tougher policy with an order not to have any negotiations with terrorists," he said. "Of course they should never have started the war in the first place but at this point Chechen terrorism has to be punished. The operation should have been done immediately by the special forces as soon as they first got the hostages. But the government is too scared of doing something wrong and they're too scared to accept any responsibility."

When the hostages were first taken, the situation in many ways echoed last June's crisis in the southern Russian town of Budyonnovsk, where hostages were eventually released through negotiations with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. This time however, Muscovites seemed to favor force rather than political talks.

In an opinion poll in the Russian daily Komsomolskaya Pravda, in which 1,000 people were asked whether they would support the napalm bombing of all Chechen military bases, almost half of the respondents said yes.

In a vodka bar in central Moscow, where eight musicians were celebrating the end of an exam, Zhenya Lipnitsky, 19, an oboe student, said any attempt at further negotiations would only have led to further acts of terrorism across the country.

"They had to use force," he said. "If they'd done what they did in Budyonnovsk there'd be much more terrorism and it would all end up here," said Lipnitsky, who also opposes the Chechen war.

"Terror has to be punished, even if it means that some hostages die. It sounds like a cruel thing to say but I think even that would be worth it, if it stops such acts of terrorism from taking place in the future," he added.

His friend, Kostya Zolotov, 19, who had already consumed several glasses of vodka, was more vehement:

"The Chechens should get it in the brain -- and not just once," he said. "They should all be shot -- their education revolves around destruction, and force is the only language they understand."

He blamed the Russian Army for poor organization and leadership, and for their failure to crush Chechen independence in the past year of heavy fighting.

"I don't believe in the army, I believe in the special forces," said Zolotov, a robust mustachioed percussionist. "The army's full of boys my age who believe in nothing and know nothing. Victory lies with the professionals."

During a four-hour tour of Moscow, the Tretyakov Museum and the merry-go-round on Gorky Park appeared to be the only places frequented by Muscovites where those advocating a peaceful solution to this week's crisis could be found.

As his daughter Masha spun around the carousel with snowflakes falling on her large pink coat, Andrei Trishin, 33, looked down at his feet and shook his head.

"[Defense Minister Pavel] Grachev and Yeltsin are guilty in all of this," he said. "Of course the Chechens were wrong to take the hostages, but I think we're the guilty ones and our policy is what's caused all this. It's gone too far now, and I don't know what they should have done in Dagestan but they should have thought of that earlier."

In the Tretyakov Gallery, Olga Gordeyeva also seemed horrified at the violent developments of the past week.

"It's an unbelievable tragedy," she said. "They should have held talks but they're clearly too incompetent and they lack any understanding of what's going on."