Putin Orders Beslan Investigation

Local girls look at a wall with portraits of those people who were killed a year ago when the school was seized by hostage-takers, in the gymnasium of school No.1, where more then 1000 hostages where held, in Beslan late Friday, Sept. 2, 2005. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky) AP

President Vladimir Putin instructed the General Prosecutor's office to investigate information on last year's school hostage crisis presented to him by representatives of the grief-stricken town of Beslan, the Interfax news agency reported Saturday.

Putin said he had instructed prosecutors to send representatives to Beslan to verify the information provided at a Friday meeting between the president and eight residents of the city, the RIA-Novosti news agency reported.

Putin told the Security Council at their customary Saturday meeting that the results of the investigation into the Beslan school hostage crisis should be used to optimize the activity of law enforcement organs, Interfax said.

Putin said he shared the opinion of the people of Beslan that "an objective and exhaustive investigation of such a case should help realize a cardinal improvement of the entire law enforcement system," the news agency said.

The report of the instruction to prosecutors came just minutes after thousands of people gathered at Beslan's School No. 1 held a moment of silence for the dead on the third and last day of mourning to mark the anniversary of the attack. Putin and his ministers started their meeting with a moment of silence as well, Russian news agencies reported.

According to the Kommersant daily, a member of the Beslan delegation, Viktor Yesiyev, had voiced his belief that Putin had been misinformed about the government's handling of the tragedy and the subsequent investigation.

"They (the prosecutors) will have to conduct exhaustive, additional verification of the entire aggregate of information about this case," the ITAR-Tass news agency quoted Putin as saying.

Putin was roundly condemned in Beslan for flying into the town the day after the hostage crisis came to an end and holding a televised meeting with officials, but avoiding encounters with the victims' relatives.

The Beslan Mothers' Committee had long demanded to meet with Putin to air its protest over the government's handling of the tragedy: both the botched rescue operation and the subsequent investigation.

When the invitation for a meeting with Putin finally came late last week, many relatives were angry the president had chosen the first anniversary of the siege for what they suspected was more a political gesture than an attempt to hear their grievances. The committee, however, sent four representatives.

Committee head Susanna Dudiyeva said late Friday after the meeting that she was satisfied and trusted Putin would take action.
  • Sean Alfano

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