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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

SPS Pins Siege Deaths to Negligence

After conducting its own probe into the handling of last month's hostage crisis, the Union of Right Forces party, or SPS, blamed the death of 128 captives on officials in charge of organizing the rescue effort, the party's leadership said at an extraordinary meeting Tuesday evening.

However, party leaders were careful not to point the finger at specific officials and acknowledged that the investigation was unlikely to lead to any disciplinary measures.

"The main reason for the rise in casualties among the hostages ... was negligence on the part of officials responsible for organizing first aid for the victims and their transportation to inpatient care units, and for the general coordination of activities aimed at saving people after the raid," said a resolution passed Tuesday after the commission in charge of the probe presented its findings.

The resolution identified a dozen fatal flaws in the operation, including an "unacceptably" long wait for medical care, secrecy about the type of gas used in the raid and a lack of coordination between commandos and rescue workers, including the absence of a health care professional to coordinate efforts on-site. The document also condemned rescuers' failure to properly sort victims and immediately assess their condition, inadequate preliminary treatment and overcrowding at hospitals.

"It was absolutely obvious that the goal of saving people was secondary; the primary goal was to eliminate the terrorists," commission chairman Eduard Vorobyov quoted one expert involved in the investigation as saying.

The commission, made up of nine SPS members and 11 experts, met seven times to review audio and video recordings, as well as press publications. Commission members also interviewed people who participated in the rescue operation.

Of the 11 experts, only four agreed to make their names public. SPS leader Boris Nemtsov said this was due to "understandable" concerns and that attempts to intimidate the experts had been "even greater than expected." He did not elaborate.

Nemtsov also said that he has given the investigation results to President Vladimir Putin, who said "the information was very close to what he knew" already.

Nemtsov said he had not been left with the impression that Putin would take action.

A source familiar with the meeting said the president's response had been: "Why agitate the country?"

Last week Putin promised to appoint an official to look into unanswered questions about the siege, Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky told The Associated Press on Friday.

Although Nemtsov said that the negligence unearthed by the probe included grave criminal offenses, SPS refused to try to identify the officials who were guilty, saying that such matters should be left law enforcement and the courts.

"We are not investigators of the Prosecutor General's Office," Nemtsov said.

The party's leaders voted to make the commission's findings public, but chose not to submit them directly to the prosecutor's office.

SPS officials repeatedly said that they had no complaints about the work of special forces troops who raided the theater where Chechen rebels held some 800 people hostage Oct. 23-26, or of medical personnel at hospitals where the victims were treated.

Another SPS leader, Irina Khakamada, said the roots of the hostage-taking -- which required more than 40 armed rebels to stockpile arms and explosives in the heart of Moscow -- were inextricably linked to problems in law enforcement and the military, including widespread corruption and a decrepit agent network. Khakamada added that there were powerful interests among both rebels and federal officials who had vested interests in seeing the war in Chechnya continue.

Earlier this month, the State Duma voted against two resolutions -- one from SPS and one from Yabloko -- calling for the creation of a parliamentary commission to investigate the theater siege and rescue operation.