Putin on Saturday fired Interior Minister Kazbeck Dzantiev and the director of the regional branch of the FSB Valery Andreyev – a week after the siege in Beslan in North Ossetia ended with the death of 339 hostages and 39 hostage-takers.

North Ossetian President Alexander Dzasokhov, who has been severely criticized for his handling of the three-day long drama, sacked his entire government on Thursday but has refused so far to step down himself.

Local residents have been particularly angered at how the heavily armed hostage-takers were able to get into North Ossetia from the separatist republic of Chechnya, and from there into the school without being stopped by authorities.

Angry locals

North Ossetians have demonstrated in Beslan, calling for Dzasokhov's dismissal.

Dzasokhov was in Moscow during the day for a meeting of the Russian security council, following which Putin made the decision to sack the two top officials.

Putin on Friday had reversed a previous refusal to consider a public inquiry and ordered the setting up of a probe by the Federation Council.

More than a week after the hostage crisis, the circumstances of the hostage-taking, the ensuing negotiations and the final assault remain shrouded in obscurity.