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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Beslan Report Critical of Troops

Federal troops fired grenades into the Beslan school while hostages were still inside, a State Duma report found.

What's more, the commandos' actions may have prompted the bloody firefight that killed 331 hostages, more than half of whom were children, the report found.

The report, part of which was presented Thursday by Rodina Deputy Yury Savelyev to a panel investigating the September 2004 attack, sharply contrasts with earlier investigations.

Those investigations, conducted by the panel and the Prosecutor General's Office, asserted that troops neither used excessive force nor instigated the calamitous conclusion to the three-day standoff.

The account mapped out by Savelyev, the lone dissenting member on the panel, is in line with those offered by eyewitnesses, who said troops armed with grenade launchers fired projectiles at the school, causing a ball of fire to erupt upon impact.

Witnesses have further contended that the projectiles launched by troops could have set fire to the roof of the gym, where most of the hostages were clustered, and caused the roof to collapse. Most of the casualties occurred in the blaze.

Some witnesses to the Sept. 1-3 attack provided accounts that corroborated Savelyev's during the trial of Nurpashi Kulayev, the only known surviving terrorist. Kulayev was on Friday sentenced to life in prison.

Kulayev and witnesses asserted that snipers positioned outside the school shot a terrorist in the gym, which caused one of the many bombs inside the building that had been rigged by the terrorists to go off.

In a separate report in November, Stanislav Kesayev, a regional legislator from North Ossetia, hinted strongly that it was shelling of the school from outside that led to the final, deadly confrontation.

Alexander Torshin, who heads the investigating parliamentary panel, and the Prosecutor General's Office have argued that it would have been impossible for snipers to take aim at the terrorists because the school's windows were made of tinted plastic.

Savelyev is still working on the report, said Lidia Mikhailova, a Rodina spokeswoman. The report is expected to include seven parts, and Savelyev has submitted the first three parts, which encompass 520 pages.

The Duma panel has 10 days to decide whether to incorporate Savelyev's findings in its final report, Mikhailova added. It is unclear when the other four parts will be debated by the commission.

Savelyev has refused to speak publicly about the inquiry. Calls to his office have gone unanswered.

Mikhailova said Savelyev was likely to make his report public if the commission ignored its findings.

Torshin said Friday that he and other members of the investigating panel had agreed not to comment on Savelyev's study until they had reviewed it, said Valeria Shatunova, Torshin's spokeswoman. Commission members formed a working group to pore over the report in detail, she said.

Nikolai Shepel, deputy prosecutor general for the North Caucasus, reiterated Friday that troops did not violate any laws during the Beslan standoff. Shepel cited the prosecutor general's study, released in December by a panel of seven experts. The report did not name the experts.

Survivors and relatives of victims of the hostage crisis hope that Savelyev's inquiry will help lead to the prosecution of troops they blame for the deaths of many of the hostages. "We haven't read Savelyev's report yet, but we know he is an expert and that the report proves that the troops are responsible for the deaths of hostages," Ella Kesayeva, head of Voice of Beslan, a group of victims and their relatives, said by telephone Friday from Vladikavkaz.

Besides being a deputy, Savelyev is an explosives expert, Mikhailova said. He holds a degree in the sciences from what is now Baltic State Technical University, the State Duma's web site states.

Kesayeva said the report would bolster her group's plan to file suit with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France.

"We can't wait until the end of the official investigation," Kesayeva said. "We need to make a decision quickly, and we need the truth."