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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Duma to Hear Beslan Findings

ReutersSonya Guldayeva weeping Friday at the grave of her daughter Elza in Beslan.
A parliamentary commission investigating the Beslan school hostage-taking has returned from its first trip to the scene of the tragedy and will present its findings to the State Duma in a closed-door hearing Thursday, Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov said Monday.

The commission, comprised of 12 Federation Council senators and 10 Duma deputies, spent four days meeting with former hostages and local authorities in Beslan, and the number of questions that it will try to answer has mushroomed from an initial 50 to more than 500, said commission head Alexander Torshin.

The commission has many more questions because local authorities, the Interior Ministry and the Federal Security Service have all offered different accounts about the Sept. 1-3 tragedy, which killed more than 330 people, said Torshin, a deputy Federation Council speaker.

"I have taken an inventory to find out how many things we should consider, and the number is more than 500," he said on state-run Rossia television Sunday. He did not elaborate.

The commission is planning to take more trips to North Ossetia, and possibly to neighboring Ingushetia and other regions in the North Caucasus as well, Torshin said. Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev, who has claimed responsibility for the attack, is believed to have dispatched the hostage-takers from Ingushetia.

The commission will finish its inquiry in six months, Torshin said.

He and Mironov made no comment about what the commission learned during its first trip, and it was unclear Monday which of its findings, if any, would be made public. Mironov said Saturday that new evidence had been uncovered and it would be turned over to investigators.

Torshin, citing former hostages questioned by the commission, said Sunday that some hostage-takers had injected themselves with drugs, apparently to heighten their threshold of pain and sharpen their vision.

Torshin said commission members had felt no pressure from the authorities and had been enthusiastically supported by Beslan residents.

After arriving last Monday night, the commission received hundreds of letters and fielded 147 calls on a special hotline, commission member Yevgeny Yakovlev said. "The people expressed hope that those guilty for the terrorist attack would be found and that the terrorists' accomplices and negligent, irresponsible officials would be punished," he said.

The commission's visit helped bring order to post-crisis chaos in the town, said Taimuraz Gassiyev, a Beslan resident who was among the armed locals who stood watch outside the school during the three-day standoff. "Since the commission came here, humanitarian aid is being distributed every day. People have at last started getting monetary compensation," he said.

"Earlier, we were told that confusion over the list of victims was preventing the money from being distributed," he said. "Now there is more order here, maybe just because our officials are scared."

The parliamentary commission was created under intense public pressure. President Vladimir Putin initially said an internal probe would be sufficient and rejected a parliamentary investigation, saying it would degenerate into a "political show."

Mironov later formed the commission with Putin's blessing and staffed it with Kremlin loyalists from the Federation Council and Duma.

The inquiry is unlikely to reach any conclusions damaging to Putin, and its length -- six months, in comparison to the 20 months spent by the U.S. 9/11 commission -- threatens to undercut the depth of its research.

Yana Voitova contributed to this report from Beslan, North Ossetia.