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

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Beslan Is Still Covered by a Smokescreen

Driving into town from the airport on Saturday I saw a banner on Kutuzovsky Prospekt that read: "Moscow Is With You, Beslan."

But was it? The next day was City Day in Moscow. In Beslan candles were lit and women wept in a charred gymnasium covered by a Plexiglas roof, while in Moscow there was singing and dancing.

To Our Readers

Has something you've read here startled you? Are you angry, excited, puzzled or pleased? Do you have ideas to improve our coverage?
Then please write to us.
All we ask is that you include your full name, the name of the city from which you are writing and a contact telephone number in case we need to get in touch.
We look forward to hearing from you.

Email the Opinion Page Editor

On Friday evening, Susanna Dudiyeva, chairwoman of the Beslan Mothers' Committee, returned from her meeting in Moscow with President Vladimir Putin. She was drained. She said that the president had been misinformed on many issues and that he had admitted his share of responsibility.

The meeting was a masterstroke of political PR. Instead of talking about the issues that mattered on the first anniversary of the school seizure in Beslan, people discussed the pros and cons of the meeting with Putin. After the Dubrovka theater hostage crisis, public attention was similarly diverted from the investigation into what had happened by the high-profile lawsuits filed by lawyer Igor Trunov on behalf of victims' relatives.

If the delegation from Beslan hadn't met with Putin, talk would have turned to some very different questions, such as: Why did they tell us that there were only 350 hostages in the school when there were actually more than 1,200?

But the main problem is that the government's lies cost children's lives. After state media reported that there were 350 hostages inside the school, the terrorists threatened to leave just 350 alive.

We were told that the terrorists had issued no demands, when in fact they had demanded an end to the war in Chechnya and the removal of all troops from the republic. During his meeting with the Beslan delegation last Friday, Putin explained that the troops had already been removed and that the war was over. Moscow was conducting an anti-terrorist operation in Chechnya, he said. In that case, Putin could have said that they wanted an end to a war that's already over.

Why did the first bomb go off in the gymnasium? Suspcted hostage-taker Nurpashi Kulayev has testified that the man who had his foot on the detonator was taken out by a sniper. For this to have happened, the sniper must have known what he was doing. He could have figured out that particular terrorist's function by watching the video tape of footage of the bombs and the terrorists' demands that they threw out the window on the very first day. So why were we told that it "turned out to be blank?"

Who gave the order to fire on the school with tanks and Shmel rocket-propelled incendiary grenades? The corpses of 119 hostages were so badly burned that exact cause of death could not be determined. Local residents who burst into the gym on the heels of the commandos have said that the fire began 15 to 20 minutes after the initial explosion and that it was caused by the grenades. Their children burned to death before they could do anything to save them.

Maybe some of the other remaining questions can only be answered after a thorough investigation. But no investigation is required for the government to announce who gave the order to fire grenades at the school and who was in charge of the rescue effort. These questions have nothing to do with the actions of terrorists who came to murder children. They have to do with the actions of the authorities whose duty was to rescue them.

If the authorities still haven't owned up to their own actions in Beslan, can we trust them to tell the truth about their investigation into the actions of the terrorists?

Yulia Latynina hosts a show on Ekho Moskvy radio.