Truth About Beslan
entitled Beslan: The Hostages’ Truth compiled by Yuriy Savelev, a State Duma
deputy and member of the parliamentary commission investigating the terrorist
attack, was published today on the Pravda Beslana (Beslan’s Truth) web site www.pravdabeslana.ru.
This report, the “special opinion” which other investigators did not agree
with, is practically the only voice of reason on the parliamentary commission,
as the official version of events directly contradicts not only the evidence of
the hostages and witnesses, but even the laws of physics and explosives.
Petrovich Savelev is a doctor of technical sciences, a highly qualified expert
on the physics of combustion and explosions, a professor and former rector of St
Petersburg’s Institute of Military Mechanics, the only specialist of his kind
on the commission.
May-June this year Savelev familiarised other members of the parliamentary
commission and a range of experts with his report. Making practically no
substantial objections, they described his conclusions as “deliberate
falsification of the data” and “speculation”. The chairman of the
commission, A. Torshin, accused Savelev of “playing political games”.
The reaction to the report can be easily explained: Savelev not only completely
destroys the official version of the terrorist attack in Beslan (the version of
the Prosecutor’s Office which was repeated by A. Torshin in his December 2005
report), but also proves the terrible truth: the hostages died not through the
fault of the terrorists, but through the fault of the HQ’s actions. Not simply
the actions but the criminal order given by one of the HQ’s FSB generals.
Savelev’s report is voluminous, packed with evidence, calculations, formulas
and photographic proof. The author pays a lot of attention to the testimonies of
the surviving hostages, witnesses and eyewitnesses. These testimonies were given
in open court during the trial of Nurpashi Kulayev at the Supreme Court of the
Republic of North Ossetia-Alania. Stenographic records of the trial, which were
published quickly on the www.pravdabeslana.ru
web site, allowed any interested party to delve into the circumstances of events
in Beslan. The details repeated by the former hostages provided material to
understand the events of 1-3 September 2004 and especially the events that set
in motion the storming of the school on 3 September. Moreover, Savelev based his
report on the large archive of photographic and video material from the scene of
the tragedy which was put together with the help of reporters who worked in
Beslan. It is not easy to paraphrase the report either in terms of its scope or
its base of scientific evidence, so I will restrict myself in this article to
just the main conclusions.
first part of the report is devoted to the circumstances surrounding the
explosions in the school sports hall, which were heard after 13.00 on 3
September 2004 and after which the “enforced storming” began. The official
version runs: “The unidentified terrorists activated explosive devices rigged
up in the school sports hall.” The investigation proceeded from this version,
conducting expert analyses in explosives and fires. Savelev pays a great deal of
attention in his report to criticism of these analyses. Taking as a basis the
repeated evidence of the hostages, the investigation of the nature and timing of
the destruction in the sports hall, the used casings from single-shot weapons,
which were found by local residents and handed in to the prosecutor’s office,
and photographic records and using formulas to calculate the strength of the
explosions, the author of the report draws his conclusions. The first explosion
in the sports hall, packed with weak hostages, was the result of a shot from an
RPO-A (rocket-propelled infantry flame-thrower with a thermobaric action, in
other words a Shmel flame-thrower) from the five-storey House No 37 in School
Lane. The shot was fired at 13.03 into the northeast corner of the attic space
of the sports hall, which adjoins the gym. As the FSB did not reply to the
official enquiry of the parliamentary commission, the author admits that in this
case an RPO-A might not have been used, but a TBG-7V grenade (RPG-7V1 grenade
thrower), RShG-2 (rocket-propelled assault grenade) or an MPO-A (although at
that time this type of weapon might not yet have been in the armoury of the
Russian Federation FSB’s special centre). As the shot was made by a
thermobaric grenade with a simplified charge, then it is likely that a weapon of
the types mentioned with similar specifications was used.
second explosion in the sports hall, which was heard 22 seconds later, was
caused by a high explosive splinter grenade, with an equivalent of 6.1 kg of TNT,
fired from an RShG-1 grenade thrower in the five-storey House No 41 in School
Lane. The shot destroyed the wall beneath the northern window’s sill, close to
the western wall of the sports hall.
important to note that a significant number of the explosive devices rigged up
by the fighters in the sports hall did not explode, while some of them did
explode as a result of the raging fire. A large number of the hostages in the
sports hall died precisely as a result of the first two explosions. Some of the
survivors managed to run out of the sports hall, while after the explosions
others were taken by the fighters into the school’s canteen, assembly hall and
southern wing. The fighters moved the people because a fire had started in the
sports hall and had taken hold very quickly. The fire in the sports hall started
as a result of the first shot, practically at 13.05, as the school’s attic
area, ceiling rafters and lagging had begun to burn where the thermobaric
grenade fell. The burning rafters and lagging fell onto the wounded, but still
living, hostages. The order of the head of the operational HQ, FSB Maj-Gen V.A.
Andreyev, to extinguish the fire came at 15.10, the first water at 15.28, that
is, two and a half hours after the start of the fire. In this time all the
hostages who remained in the sports hall were burnt. Helpless and wounded, they
were burnt alive.
fate did not await those who were moved from the sports hall to other parts of
the school. All parts of the school except for the sports hall came under fire
from outside from Shmel flame throwers, RPG-26 and RShG-2 grenade throwers,
other weapons and also from tanks. Yuriy Savelev has calculated from the
investigation’s official documents and forensic reports that approximately 300
to 310 hostages were taken from the sports hall to other parts of the school and
that approximately 106 to 110 of them died.
report contains many other convincing expositions and conclusions. I have
mentioned only the basic ones. The main conclusion is: the storming of the
school in Beslan was engineered (begun) by the use of weapons by the Russian
special services, specifically the team from the operational HQ. However, the
storming was presented to us as “enforced”, that is, begun after “the
fighters blew up the sports hall”. Savelev proves in his report that this is
events turn out this way? What was the logic and what were the circumstances
that made the HQ fire several times into the sports hall and then begin the
assault? I have been asking myself this question for a long time. This is my
theory. First, it has to be taken into account that there were in fact two
“operational headquarters”: one, termed by convention “the power-wielding
structures or heavies”, which included the federal FSB, and the other “civilian”,
which included the leaders of the republic, deputies, and also regional,
Ossetian heavies of a lower rank. From 1 September the “heavies” HQ was
preparing the assault, while the “civilian” HQ was looking for a peaceful
resolution of the situation through negotiations. In many ways the “heavies”
restricted the actions of the “civilians” (in particular in their attempts
to negotiate with the fighters) and also took pains to assure everyone that
“there will be no storming”.
very beginning the local population and relatives of the hostages in the school
were very afraid of an assault by force. Representatives of the “civilian HQ”
went out to meet people and assure them that “there will be no storming”.
But they were not really believed: the degree of mistrust of officialdom was
outstripped by the lies of the HQ and mass media (especially the federal TV
channels) about the number of hostages – all three days it was reported that
there were 354 of them, although by the afternoon of 1 September the number was
known to be “more than 1,000” (members of the HQ - the Russian Federation
president’s deputy press secretary, Dmitriy Peskov, and the deputy director of
the “Vesti”(“News”) department for information and the press, Pyotr
Vasilyev - “filtered” the information for the media). Ossetian men literally
formed a living ring around the school in order to prevent an attack by the
military. They were armed with whatever they could find, even with rare weapons
from the Second World War.
while the “civilian” HQ was thinking about ways of holding negotiations, the
“heavies” were preparing to storm the school. It should be noted that the
“civilian” HQ even achieved some success in their work – agreement was
reached on the arrival of Maskhadov whom they promised to let into the school.
He was guaranteed a corridor and airfield. An hour after these agreements were
reached, the storm of the school began.
“heavies” HQ faced a “difficult” task: how can they storm the school if
local residents will see this straightaway and get in the way of the work of the
special units? The decision was taken then: 1. to engineer the assault; 2. to
make it look as though the fighters themselves blew up the sports hall; 3. to
this end to fire several times into the sports hall (into the attic, under the
hall’s window and into the window); 4. to begin the assault with special
forces; 5. to distract the attention of the fighters before firing into the
sports hall (it had been agreed that forces from the Emergencies Ministry would
collect bodies thrown out of the school window). This was the plan. This was the
chronology: the Emergencies Ministry drives up to collect the bodies, at 13.03
explosions are heard in the sports hall, special forces begin “the enforced
storming”. The local population does not get in the way of the troops and
themselves rush to drag the hostages out of the sports hall.
sure that only a few people knew the details of this operation. I am sure that
this operation was devised by the FSB. Most likely the generals knew about this
operation – at that time they were deputy FSB directors V. Pronichev, V.
Anisimov and A. Tikhonov who were in Beslan and leading the “heavies” HQ.
And of course the operation was agreed with President Putin, perhaps without the
details, but in principle: “A storming and no negotiations”. A source in the
presidential administration reported that President Putin took the decision in
principle to storm the Beslan school at roughly midday on 1 September 2004.
History does not forget such decisions.
The author is the editor-in-chief of the Pravda Beslana web site.