Siege victims blame Russian authorities

A year after the Moscow theatre siege that left 170 people dead, relatives of the victims say the Russian government did not do enough to save lives.

    Many of the siege victims choked on their own vomit

    Yelena Karpova, who lost her only son in the raid, said on Monday that bereaved families want an independent inquiry so "that

    the guilty are punished". 

    Chechen commandoes stormed the theatre during a musical performance, taking 800 people hostage and demanding Moscow withdraw troops from Chechnya.

    Russian special forces stormed the theatre three days later, after pumping in a debilitating gas that killed 129 hostages, in addition to the 41 hostage-takers.

    Medical care

    Critics have said the deaths could have been prevented if Russian authorities had provided proper medical care for those affected.

    The doctors who were on the scene were not told what gas was used in the raid and thus did not know what antidote to administer.

    "There were not enough stretchers and the hostages who lost consciousness were transported in any which way," said Yelena Baranovskaya, one of the hostages who lost her husband and only son in the siege.

    Rescuers dragged many of the unconscious hostages out of the theatre by their feet. As a result many of the people died choking on their own vomit.

    Lethal gas

    "There were not enough stretchers and the hostages who lost consciousness were transported in any which way"

    Yelena Baranovskaya,
    Siege survivor

    "They should have above all aired out the theatre after the assault," said Zoya Chernetsova, a former nurse whose only son died in the raid. "That would have enabled more lives to be saved."

    For several days after the raid the authorities refused to name the gas used.

    Finally, health minister Yury Shevchenko said it was a derivative of Fentanyl, a sedative.

    But some experts have said the effects were too harsh for Fentanyl and suspected the gas used was prohibited by the Geneva conventions on chemical weapons.

    The authorities handling of the siege did not draw widespread criticism in Russia, with officials brushing off all protest.

    Family complaints

    "It is the terrorists who should be blamed for that and not those who fought against them," President Vladimir Putin said.

    "Those people died not as a result of the gas, because the gas was not harmful ... People had become victims of a number of circumstances - dehydration, chronic diseases, the very fact that they had to stay in that building."

    After the siege, the Moscow mayor's office made payments of between $1500 and $3000 to victims of the hostage-taking.

    In January this year, attorney Igor Trunov filed 64 complaints on behalf of families of those killed and those who survived the incident, demanding a total of $60 million in damages. 


    But after having thrown out most of the claims, a Moscow court ordered the city government to pay compensation to 10 victims.



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