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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

3 Hostage Victims Sue City for $2.5M

MTWorkers refurbishing the platform under a sculpture made of ball bearings in the Dubrovka theater Tuesday. The theater was the house of culture of a ball-bearing plant
Three victims of last month's hostage crisis are suing the city of Moscow for $2.5 million in damages and several more intend to do the same, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs said Tuesday.

The victims -- two former hostages and the father of a hostage who died -- are seeking "moral and material damages" under the federal law on fighting terrorism, lawyer Igor Trunov told reporters.

"There are a lot of victims, and I believe that a lot of victims means a lot of responsibility," Trunov said. "Busloads of criminals armed to the teeth and laden with explosives are riding around the city, and I think this [lawsuit] may indirectly mean additional responsibility and an additional improvement in the quality of the work" of city authorities.

The lawsuit -- the first such legal complaint resulting from the Oct. 23 to 26 siege -- was filed by Alexandra Ryabtseva, 19, and her father, Alexander Ryabtsev, who were among the theatergoers held for nearly 60 hours by Chechen gunmen, and Pyotr Sidorenko, whose son was among the 129 captives who died after the rescue effort. The daughter and father are seeking $1 million each, while Sidorenko has asked for $500,000, Trunov said. Court hearings are scheduled to begin next Tuesday.

Moscow authorities responded angrily to the complaint. Mayor Yury Luzhkov's spokesman, Sergei Tsoi, called the lawsuit unfounded and unfair, saying the court's consent to consider it amounted to blaming Moscow for being the site of the siege, Interfax reported.

"The problem of Chechnya and its consequences do not by any means fall under the jurisdiction of the Moscow authorities. Resolving it ? is a task [to be handled] on an overall federal level," Tsoi was quoted as saying.

Criticism has been leveled at officials who organized the hostage rescue effort, but no specific names of those responsible have been made public. The Union of Right Forces party carried out its own probe of the operation and blamed the high death count among hostages on poor organization and coordination in providing medical care after commandos raided the theater.

At least 123 of the hostages died from the effects of the gas used to knock out their captors.

The city is paying out financial aid to former hostages and their families, but Trunov said this does not annul their right to compensation under the anti-terrorism law, which stipulates that money for damages incurred as a result of terrorist activity can be sought from the government of the region where the attack took place.

Trunov was confident that the court would call for some kind of payment.


Vladimir Filonov / MT

Theater caretaker Alexander Kastalsky showing newly installed seats near the stage.

"Whatever the sum, there should be some compensation. And this in itself will be a success because it will mean additional help for the victims," Trunov said.

He added that, under the law, foreigners wishing to sue for damages could file suit against the Russian government, while security agencies and law enforcement were exempt from liability.

Trunov said that a man whose son was among the hostages who died, Viktor Bondarenko, inquired Tuesday about joining the suit but wanted to wait out the traditional 40-day mourning period before taking any action, as did another group of relatives. Trunov said his law firm was providing services to victims of the hostage crisis free of charge, and that thorny legal issues could include property and inheritance rights and custody of minors.

Eight former hostages remained hospitalized as of Sunday, three of them in critical condition, Interfax reported.

Meanwhile, prosecutors announced that two suspected accomplices in the hostage-taking who had been detained last week were released Tuesday. City prosecutor Mikhail Avdyukov told Interfax that Viktor Kroitoru, a 26-year-old native of Moldova, and Oleg Isachenko of Odessa had not been linked to the theater siege.

Kroitoru's live-in girlfriend, Irina Ivanteyeva, 28, who was also detained Friday, remained in custody, the report said. Interfax cited law enforcement sources as saying that Ivanteyeva's ex-husband Khampash Sobraliyev, a native of Vedeno in Chechnya who was also detained Friday, brought bags of explosives to his ex-wife's apartment on Oct. 25. Ivanteyeva and Kroitoru then threw the bags into the Moscow River, the report said.

Two more men detained last week were identified as Arman Menkeyev, 38 or 39, and Yury Yankovsky, 35 or 36.

Megan Merrill contributed to this report.