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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

A Rise in Dubrovka Deaths Is Denied

City Hall denied Tuesday that as many as 40 former hostages have died since the October hostage raid at the Dubrovka theater.

The claim was made by lawyer Igor Trunov, who has filed a total of 61 lawsuits seeking moral damages from the Moscow city government on behalf of more than 100 survivors and relatives of victims. Twenty of the suits were rejected by a district court Tuesday.

The first deputy head of the city health committee, Sergei Polyakov, disputed Trunov's claim. "The committee has not registered new deaths among the former hostages," he told Interfax on Tuesday, adding that "former hostages are being monitored by the city's medical institutions."

But Trunov reasserted his claim Tuesday. "Forty survivors have died in the half a year since the raid and about 80 percent of the others suffer from different illnesses, which I link to their exposure to that undisclosed gas," Trunov said by telephone.

Chechen rebels seized the Dubrovka theater during a performance of the musical "Nord Ost" on Oct. 23, holding some 800 people hostage for three days. City authorities reported later that a total of 129 hostages died, mostly from the effects of the gas used to knock out the hostage-takers. The identity of the gas has not been disclosed.

Trunov said his figures were based on information provided by public charity group Nord Ost, which is made up of several former hostages and relatives of victims. The group was not reachable by telephone Tuesday.

A list of deaths posted on web site includes seven more names than found in the official roster. The site was set up by several Russian publications as a resource center for Dubrovka survivors and relatives of victims.

The site's coordinator, Renata Rozovskaya, said Tuesday the seven names were added after relatives of victims saw they had not been included in the official list.

Meanwhile, the Tverskoi district court rejected 20 more suits of the total of 61 filed by Trunov on behalf of survivors and relatives of victims. The plaintiffs are seeking $60 million from the city government. Russia's anti-terrorism law makes the region where a terrorist attack occurs liable for any moral and material damages.

Trunov said the Tverskoi district judge deserves a medal for showing "professional efficiency."

"It took only two hours for Judge Marina Gorbachyova to consider 20 cases," he said. "In most instances, she just asked plaintiffs whether they support their earlier written complaints to the court and after getting affirmative answers, she rejected the suits." He said the plaintiffs plan to appeal to a higher court.

On Monday, the Moscow City Court rejected three appeals from relatives of victims whose lawsuits had been rejected by Gorbachyova earlier.