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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Promises Not to Forget Beslan

ReutersPeople attending a ceremony in the ruins of the Beslan school on Saturday to commemorate the 2004 attack.
President Vladimir Putin said the country would not forget the "children who would never go to school again," recalling hundreds killed in the Belsan school attack three years ago.

Kremlin envoy Dmitry Kozak reassured families of victims that a solid investigation was being carried out into the handling of the attack. Any officials found negligent would face trial, he said.

But mothers of children killed in the attack rejected the promises, accusing the government of complicity in the deaths.

Chechen gunmen seized more than 1,000 children and parents attending a ceremony in Beslan to celebrate the new school year on Sept. 1, 2004. A total of 334 hostages -- more than half of them children -- died in the three-day crisis, which ended with a chaotic rescue attempt.

Kozak, presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District, and State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov sought to quell the fears of a nongovernmental organization set up by Beslan mothers to demand justice for the tragedy.

"A huge amount of work has been done, and it is unprecedented. ... Actions of every soldier have been analyzed," Kozak said Saturday in Beslan, Interfax reported.

For the first day of school Saturday, Putin visited a school in Astrakhan, where he spoke of Beslan.

"Even though today is a bright and festive day, we can't forget about the tragedy a few years ago and the children who would never go to school again," Putin told young students in televised remarks.

Beslan mothers dismissed the government's latest gesture as empty at a rally along with 300 other people in Moscow on Saturday.

"There will be no good results from this investigation. Kozak will make sure there are no guilty parties," said Ella Kesayeva, a leader for the mothers. "We came to Moscow to give the message that you can't shut people up in society. We demand a fair investigation."

Witnesses in Beslan have said they saw federal forces fire at the school, something officials have denied.

"Security forces bombed the school for three hours. ... They were taking orders from someone higher up," Kesayeva said.

In an open letter to Putin, the mothers urged him to use his last year in office to visit Beslan and tell the truth about the attack.

"Our children were sacrificed for someone's bureaucratic interests. We know this truth. The whole Russian people should know this too," the letter said.

Such demands could prove dangerous.

The mothers' lawyer, Taimuraz Chedzhemov, said he dropped a case against officials after receiving a death threat.