The announcement on Wednesday came amid a firestorm of foreign and domestic criticism aimed at Russian officials and security services for their handling of the Beslan school siege.

The siege claimed 336 lives, the spokesman of the North Ossetian president told the Interfax agency.

 

Lev Dzugayev said 323 people had died during the hostage crisis itself, while another 13 passed away in hospitals afterwards.

 

The death toll included 157 children; 107 bodies are yet to be identified.

 

The toll does not include the 31 hostage-takers killed.

 

Security reform?


In a speech calling for the reform of the country's security services, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the country's borders had become porous and "unprotected from either West or East", and that corruption had pervaded the law-enforcement agencies.

 

Pre-emptive strikes on 'terrorist
bases' are not being ruled out

He called for mobilising the nation against the "common danger of terrorism". He said measures would be taken to strengthen Russia's territorial integrity, create a more effective crisis-management system, and overhaul the law-enforcement organs.

 

On Wednesday, Russia announced it was preparing to launch pre-emptive strikes on bases used for training militants anywhere in the world.

 

"As for launching pre-emptive strikes on terrorist bases, we will carry out all measures to liquidate terrorist bases in any region of the world," General Yuri Baluevsky said, according to Russian news agencies.

 

"However, this does not mean that we will launch nuclear strikes."