Daily Archives: September 2, 2007

Chinese commandoes in Moscow for anti-terror drill

Xinhua | Sep 2, 2007

chinese-snow-leopard-commando-unit
Chinese soldiers of the Snow Leopard Commando line up after arriving in Moscow on September 1, 2007 (local time). They are scheduled to join in the Cooperation 2007 Joint Exercise with Russia’s domestic security force in early September. [Xinhua]

MOSCOW — A brigade of China’s armed police arrived here on Saturday for an anti-terrorism drill jointly held by China and Russia. Two Il-76 military transport planes with the group of over 30 armed police and equipment arrived at 3:08 pm local time (1108 GMT).

The Snow Leopard Commando, namely the 13th Special Brigade of the PAP Beijing Corps, is scheduled to join in the Cooperation 2007 Joint Exercise with Russia’s domestic security force in early September.

The brigade, a first-class anti-terror force guarding China’s national capital, was established in December of 2002. So far, it has handled over 90 major urgent cases and took part in a dozen military drills and performances.

“Cooperation 2007” will be the first international anti- terrorism exercise for China’s armed police outside China.

The drill is conducted in accordance with the principles of Shanghai Cooperation Organization and related agreements signed by the two countries, said sources from China’s armed police.

The exact date of the drill, which will last three days, has not been announced.

Mothers of Beslan dead reject Kremlin investigation promise

In other words, they intuitively and rationally know the KGB-controlled Kremlin is whitewashing Beslan the same way they whitewashed every other false-flag terror psyop, and whitewashed every murder of those politicians and journalists who tried to expose government involvement in those very activities. Sergei Yushenkov, Alexander Litvinenko, Anna Politkovskaya. These were true patriots and lovers of Russia, but they had to be eliminated because they committed the mortal sin of telling the truth!

People of Russia, you are being lied to the same way Americans have been lied to about 9/11, the same way the British have been lied to about 7/7. These government thugs think nothing about killing their own citizens for political manipulation on the road to their New World Order. KGB officers like Vlad “The Child Killer” Putin are old hands at the black arts of terror, murder, psychological warfare, torture, surveillance, mind-control, propaganda and political tyranny. When such profoundly evil monsters come to power, people start dying in the most horrible ways, and yet, this very horror is used to boost their popularity!

How much longer will the people suffer at their hands? How much longer will they worship criminal idols like Putin at the Nashi youth camps?

Sad. So very sad…

PW

. . .

beslandeadkids

Dead children of Beslan: Putin’s handiwork

Reuters | Sep 1, 2007

By Amie Ferris-Rotman

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Mothers of Russian children killed in the Beslan school siege three years ago rejected Kremlin promises on Saturday of a thorough investigation, saying the government was complicit in the deaths.

Hundreds of children were killed when troops stormed the school, seized by Chechen rebels at the start of the school year in September 2004.

President Vladimir Putin, speaking to young students at a school in south Russia, said the country would not forget the “children who would never go to school again.”

Kremlin envoy Dmitry Kozak told families of the victims a solid investigation was being carried out into the handling of the siege, Russian local media reported. Any officials found negligent would face trial.

But members of the Beslan Mothers Committee, gathering in a Moscow square on Saturday along with 300 others, dismissed the government’s latest gesture as empty.

“There will be no good results from this investigation, Kozak will make sure there are no guilty parties,” committee head Ella Kesaeva told Reuters.

“We came to Moscow to give the message that you can’t shut people up in society, we demand a fair investigation.”

Gunmen seized more than 1,000 children and parents attending a ceremony in Beslan to mark the new school year in September 2004. A total of 333 hostages — half of them children — died in the siege, which ended with a chaotic rescue attempt.

Witnesses in Beslan have said they saw Russian forces fire at the school, something Russian officials have denied.

“Security forces bombed the school for three hours… they were taking orders from someone higher up,” Kesaeva said.

In an open letter to Putin to mark the anniversary, the Beslan Mothers Committee urged him to use his last year in office to visit Beslan and tell the truth about the massacre.

“…Our children were sacrificed for someone’s bureaucratic interests. We know this truth. The whole Russian people should know this too,” the letter said.

Such demands could prove dangerous. The committee’s lawyer, Taimuraz Chedzhemov, said he dropped a case against officials after receiving a death threat, Russian media reported.

For the first day of school in Russia, Putin, who is to step down after a March 2008 presidential election, visited a school in the south Russian city of Astrakhan where he spoke of the Beslan tragedy but did not discuss the ongoing investigation.

Kozak, presidential envoy to southern Russia, sought to quell fears of the Beslan mothers. “A huge amount of work has been done, and it is unprecedented… Actions of every soldier have been analyzed,” Interfax news agency quoted him as saying.

Beslan is in the turbulent North Caucasus region in southern Russia, near to Chechnya where Russian forces have fought two wars against separatist rebels and from where the violence often spills over into neighboring regions.

Putin built his power, first as prime minister and then as president, on a campaign to overthrow a Chechen rebel government and restore Kremlin control.

Russia: Questions Remain On Beslan’s Third Anniversary

 “The scene described by the official investigation differs considerably from that of the independent investigation. According to the official version, terrorists activated explosive devices, after which the onslaught began. The conclusions drawn by the independent commission, confirmed by nearly all of the surviving hostages, are that the first explosions were heard from outside the gymnasium, fired from two neighboring five-story buildings. When, after the explosions started a fire in the gymnasium, some of the hostages ran inside the school and were already there, the school was engulfed with fire from outside — shots were fired from flame throwers, grenade launchers, and tanks. Very many people were killed during this bombardment.

Radio Free Europe | Aug 31, 2007

By Andrei Sharyi and Tatiana Valovich

On September 1, 2004, a group of terrorists laid siege to a school in Beslan, a town in North Ossetia.

As a result of their actions and the operation to free the hostages, more than 330 people lost their lives, 186 of them children.

Families of the victims weren’t at all satisfied by the conclusions drawn by the authorities; they suspect that the blame lies not only with the terrorists, but also with the special forces, who they believe were careless with the value of human life.

On the eve of the third anniversary of the tragedy, there has been a change in leadership within the Voice of Beslan nongovernmental organization. Its previous leader, Emma Betrozova, who lost her entire family in the terrorist attack, intends to appeal to the North Ossetia Supreme Court the decision made by a court in Vladikavkaz.

Betrozova says that Judge Ilya Panaiotidi, having approved the appeal of one of the former members of Voice of Beslan, Marina Melikova, acted on government orders.

Voice Of Beslan

Betrozova’s supporters are certain that the authorities in Moscow and Vladikavkaz are irritated by attempts by Voice of Beslan to establish the truth about the circumstances of the tragedy and to bring to justice all responsible parties. Radio Liberty correspondent Andrei Sharyi spoke with Voice of Beslan member Ella Kesayeva.

Ella Kesayeva: Voice of Beslan forcefully appointed a different membership, absolutely loyal to the authorities. The process is clearly rigged. The civil organization has been committed to a relentless battle for the truth around Beslan, for the punishment of all officials, all those to blame for the tragedy. We have achieved certain results. We have gone through three complete court trials, appealed to [the European Court of Human Rights in] Strasbourg, and more and more people are joining us. The authorities saw that our popularity was growing and decided to end our existence by forceful means.”

RFE/RL: Who exactly are the people who are now leading the organization, the former Voice of Beslan?

Kesayeva: The people whom we have expelled from the organization a year and a half ago, completely, legitimately, [and] by majority opinion. They were sent to the organization to create discord, to discredit and to provoke us. Specifically, Melikova called for the physical liquidation of the chapter of our republic [of North Ossetia]. We expelled her. We acted lawfully, respectful of the law. It is a crime scene, a place of barbarism. It will teach people that it cannot be this way. Cannot be.”

RFE/RL: Do you consider it a coincidence that your organization was essentially shut down on the eve of the anniversary?

Kesayeva: No, this is no accident. This is how the authorities regard the tragedy. Emma Betrozova, a mother who lost her entire family and organized the civil organization, has been expelled. Where is the morality there?

RFE/RL: When you say “the authorities,” who do you mean? Did the local North Ossetia government disperse your organization, or did the orders come from Moscow?

Kesayeva: This is absolutely an order from Moscow, since here in our republic there is a puppet government, set up by the Kremlin. It follows orders from above.

White Angels, White Birds

In St. Petersburg, on the eve of the third anniversary of the tragedy, a monument, “To the children of Beslan,” has been unveiled. The stone arch, from which a mother is carrying a child in her arms, is next to the church of the Assumption of Malaya Okhta. Monuments to the victims of the terrorist attack in Beslan have already been set up in Vladikavkaz, Lipetsk, and Florence, Italy.

“White angels, white birds, tell me — where are you flying? And why are you so scornfully silent?” — these verses, written by a Beslan schoolboy, are inscribed on the monument’s granite plaque. Within it has been placed a capsule containing earth that the church’s prior, Father Aleksandr, brought over from Beslan.

St. Petersburg monument to Beslan (epa) Vladimir Dzotsiev, one of the leaders of the native Ossetian community in St. Petersburg, says, “We would like to ask the people of St. Petersburg, on September 3 at 9 p.m., to light candles in the windows of city houses, in memory of the children of Beslan and all the victims of terror.”

On the official website of Mothers of Beslan, an NGO representing the victims of terrorist attacks, one of the latest publications reads: “We are sure that the prosecution and especially the Federal Security Service (FSB) have all the answers to our questions. And we are now afraid that they will prematurely shut down the case.”

In North Ossetia itself, fervent arguments are taking place about what to do with the school where the terrorist attack occurred. The authorities have suggested demolishing everything and building a church on the site, or laying out a park. Families of the victims are categorically opposed to this.

Ella Kesayeva and Rita Sidakova lost loved ones in the siege of the school.

“The school must stand until we, the victims, exhaust all legal possibilities. We appealed to the court at Strasbourg, and until a verdict is carried out, no one has any legal right to demolish and build any memorials,” Kesayeva says.

“If this is done, it will be a lawless action. Let this be on the government’s head. Because the territory and the school building are tangible evidence of the government’s crimes.

“The school must remain,” Sidakova says. “It is a crime scene, a place of barbarism. It will teach people that it cannot be this way. Cannot be.”

Marina Litvinovich, who runs the Truth of Beslan website, tells RFE/RL’s Russian Service about the current stage of the investigation into the Beslan tragedy.

“A big criminal case pertaining to the terrorist attack in Beslan has continued for three years, and it hasn’t proceeded without interruption. During the whole proceedings, victims submitted various questions, new facts, new witness testimonials, but unfortunately the investigation committee hasn’t paid any attention to these details, to all of these important facts, and constantly dismissed them. For half a year already the investigation has been at a total standstill and isn’t looking into the conclusions drawn by the independent parliamentary commission. The prosecution promised to check, but unfortunately this hasn’t been done.”

She continues:

“The scene described by the official investigation differs considerably from that of the independent investigation. According to the official version, terrorists activated explosive devices, after which the onslaught began. The conclusions drawn by the independent commission, confirmed by nearly all of the surviving hostages, are that the first explosions were heard from outside the gymnasium, fired from two neighboring five-story buildings. When, after the explosions started a fire in the gymnasium, some of the hostages ran inside the school and were already there, the school was engulfed with fire from outside — shots were fired from flame throwers, grenade launchers, and tanks. Very many people were killed during this bombardment.

More Than 1,800 Iraqi Civilians Killed in August

AP | Aug 7, 2007

By ROBERT H. REID

BAGHDAD (AP) — Civilian deaths rose in August to their second-highest monthly level this year, according to figures compiled Saturday by The Associated Press. That raises questions about whether U.S. strategy is working days before Congress receives landmark reports that will decide the course of the war.

At least 81 American service members also died in Iraq during August — an increase of two over the previous month but well below the year’s monthly high of 126 in May. American deaths surpassed the 80 mark during only two months of 2006.

U.S. military officials have insisted that the security plan launched early this year have brought a decrease in attacks on civilians and sectarian killings, especially in the Baghdad area, which was the focus of the new strategy.

The top American commander, Gen. David Petraeus, is expected to cite security improvements when he and Ambassador Ryan Crocker submit reports on progress toward stability and national reconciliation to Congress during the week of Sept. 10.

However, figures compiled by the AP from police reports nationwide show that at least 1,809 civilians were killed across the country last month compared with 1,760 in July. That brings to 27,564 the number of Iraqi civilians killed since AP began collecting data on April 28, 2005.

According to the AP count, civilian deaths reached a high point during the wave of sectarian bombings, kidnappings and killings at the end of last year — 2,172 in December and 1,967 in the previous month.

Crocker predicted Saturday there will be no “fundamental or quick change” in the American policy on Iraq and appealed for patience as Congress prepares to receive the reports.

Speaking in Arabic on Iraqi state television, he said the U.S. administration believes Iraqis have made tangible progress — which Congress has demanded as a condition for continued U.S. support.

“Since 2003, there has been a stable policy by the American administration and I don’t think there will be a fundamental or quick change in the American policy or stand on Iraq,” he said.

Crocker also said Iraqis “and the friends of Iraq” should show patience as the country grapples with its political and security crisis.

“After 35 years of injustice under Saddam Hussein, there are some problems since liberation and the problems of 40 years cannot be solved in a year or two. What is important is that there is progress,” he said.

President Bush ordered nearly 30,000 additional troops to Iraq, and monthly death tolls began to decline after the new security plan was launched Feb. 14. But civilian death tolls have been creeping back toward levels approaching those during the worst of the sectarian slaughter.

AP figures show May was the deadliest month for Iraqi civilians this year, with 1,901 people killed in political or sectarian violence.

The August total included 520 people killed in quadruple suicide bombings on communities of Yazidis, a Kurdish-speaking religious minority, near the Syrian border. The horrific attacks made Aug. 14 the deadliest day since the war began in March 2003.

Despite the high nationwide totals, Petraeus was quoted Friday as saying the troop increase has sharply reduced sectarian killings in Baghdad, which accounted for most of the deaths during the wave of Sunni-Shiite slaughter at the end of last year.

“If you look at Baghdad, which is hugely important because it is the center of everything in Iraq, you can see the density plot on ethno-sectarian deaths,” Petraeus was quoted by The Australian newspaper.

“It’s a bit macabre but some areas were literally on fire with hundreds of bodies every week and a total of 2,100 in the month of December ’06, Iraq-wide. It is still much too high but we think in August in Baghdad it will be as little as one quarter of what it was,” the newspaper quoted Petraeus as saying.

Petraeus gave no figures. An AP partial count of Baghdad deaths between Aug. 1 and Aug. 21 showed at least 508 civilians had been killed in the capital — compared with at least 1,772 civilians slain here during December.

Deaths went down in Baghdad during August in part due to a strict vehicle ban imposed on the city during a major Shiite religious ceremony. Violence dropped dramatically during the Aug. 8-12 ban.

Although American forces have been successful in curbing major suicide bombings, stopping small scale atrocities has proven more challenging.

On Saturday, gunmen stormed a house in the Dora district, seizing three women and a man. The gunmen killed two of the women about yards away and fled with the two other victims, a policeman said on condition of anonymity because he was not supposed to release the information.

The U.S. command expressed hope Saturday that an order by powerful Shiite militia leader Muqtada al-Sadr stand down his Mahdi Army fighters for up to six months would curb attacks on civilians and allow American troops to step up the fight against al-Qaida.

“If implemented, al-Sadr’s order holds the prospect of allowing coalition and Iraqi security forces to intensify their focus on al-Qaida in Iraq and on protecting the Iraqi population,” the U.S. command said in a statement.

Sunni Arab leaders have accused the Mahdi Army for massacring thousands of Sunnis during the last three years and driving tens of thousands of others from their homes.

Many Shiites see the militia as their best protection against Sunni extremists, including al-Qaida, which have carried out similar attacks on Shiites.

However, Mahdi’s credibility has been shaken by allegations of extortion, murder, robbery and other crimes committed by members who appear to be beyond the control of the youthful al-Sadr, who said he would use the six-month hiatus to restructure the force “in a way that helps honor the principles for which it was formed.”

The U.S. maintains that some of the breakaway factions, which the Americans refer to as the “special groups,” are receiving weapons, training and money from Iran, a charge the Iranians deny.

American troops have been stepping up operations against Shiite “special groups” in the Baghdad area, even though the command insists that al-Qaida, a Sunni group, remains the top priority in Iraq.

Leaflets scattered around Sadr City urged people to report on Shiite militants who are cooperating with the Iranians, providing a cell phone number and an e-mail address for people to make anonymous tips.

“The criminal Iraqis who work with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards are toys under Persian control,” read one of the leaflets, which pictured a puppet dancing on strings. “Iranian Revolutionary Guards are interfering in Iraq’s affairs while Iraqis are dying.”

Iraq to Allow Former Ba’athists to Regain Government Jobs

 iraq_puppets

From left, Vice Presidents Adel Abdul-Mehdi and Tariq al-Hashemi, President Jalal Talabani, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki and the Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani on Sunday.

New York Times | Aug 28, 2007

By STEPHEN FARRELL

BAGHDAD, Aug. 27 — Hours after Iraq’s political leaders declared a deal to return former Baathists to government jobs, Iraq’s most senior Sunni Arab leader said Monday that it was too small an olive branch for Sunnis to rejoin the government.

The Sunni leader, Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, welcomed the “great achievement” of a compromise to ease measures imposed by the American occupation authority in 2003 to stop Saddam Hussein loyalists from returning to senior posts. But Mr. Hashemi said nothing had changed regarding the Aug. 1 decision by his Iraqi Islamic Party and others, which make up the Iraqi Consensus Front, to quit the government.

The announcement on Sunday has been hailed as evidence of movement toward national reconciliation by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s widely criticized Shiite-led administration, which is under intense international pressure to address the concerns of Iraq’s disaffected Sunni minority.

The chief measures sought by Sunni leaders are laws to ensure fair distribution of oil revenues and tougher steps to curb Shiite militias closely linked to parties within Mr. Maliki’s governing coalition.

Another suicide bombing was reported Monday, when a man blew himself up in a mosque in Falluja, west of Baghdad, Reuters reported. Ten people were reported dead and 11 wounded.

The American military also reported four deaths: two marines who were killed in western Anbar Province over the weekend and two soldiers who died Sunday during a gun battle in Samarra in which a dozen insurgents were reportedly killed. And CBS News announced Monday that an Iraqi interpreter working for the network was found dead five days after he was abducted from his Baghdad home.

The de-Baathification breakthrough was announced jointly on Sunday by Mr. Maliki; Mr. Hashemi; Adel Abdul-Mehdi, a Shiite who is Mr. Hashemi’s fellow vice president; and the country’s two most senior Kurdish leaders, President Jalal Talabani and Massoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdish regional government in Iraq. They also reached agreement on holding provincial elections and the release of prisoners being held without charge.

President Bush called the Iraqi leaders from Air Force One as he flew from his ranch in Crawford, Tex., to a fund-raiser in New Mexico. In a brief statement at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico, he welcomed the agreement that included steps that are among the benchmarks outlined by Congress to measure political progress.

The White House has been eager to demonstrate improvement, especially on the political front, in advance of the progress report the administration must submit to Congress by Sept. 15.

“While yesterday’s agreement is an important step, I reminded them, and they understand, much more needs to be done,” Mr. Bush said of his telephone conversations.

Mr. Hashemi, whose party is a key member of the Iraqi Consensus Front, the largest Sunni bloc, confirmed that Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish party leaders have reached consensus on the “major issues” surrounding the return of former Baathists to government jobs, although the proposed legislation has still to be sent to Parliament for discussion and approval.

Mr. Hashemi forecast that the legislation would allow less senior members of the Baath Party to return to government jobs.

But he said the Iraqi Consensus Front would not rejoin the government until other key demands were met. These include amnesties for prisoners, revising the Baghdad security plan and curbing militias.

Mr. Hashemi did offer a compromise solution, saying that if some demands were immediately met, others could be postponed for one or two weeks, or left to committees to find solutions later. But others in his party cautioned that de-Baathification was a relatively minor issue compared with their other grievances.

“There are more serious issues, such as the security portfolio, reconciliation, militias, constitutional amendments, a ministerial reshuffle and defining terrorism, resistance and who is the enemy out there on the streets,” said Omar Abdul Sattar, a lawmaker.

“We live in a crisis,” he said. “Do you think the de-Baathification law and the provincial elections are accomplishments? This is a wedding without a bride.”

Beslan Truth Group Denied Official Registration In Russia

Radio Free Europe | Aug 27, 2007

An organization representing victims of the Beslan hostage crisis has accused Russian authorities of trying to silence it for its criticism of the Kremlin.

A district court in the southern Russian city of Vladikavkaz on August 25 ruled that Voice of Beslan — under its current leadership and with its current membership — was illegitimate. The court withdrew the group’s registration and reregistered it with new leaders and members.

Voice of Beslan, chaired by Ella Kesayeva, split off from Mothers of Beslan, a support group for parents of children killed in the September 2004 massacre. Voice of Beslan has been fiercely critical of Russian authorities for their handling of the siege and has called for an international investigation.

The group has vowed to appeal the court’s decision.

In an interview today with RFE/RL’s North Caucaus Service, Kesayeva pledged that the group would continue its activities.

“The authorities are not interested in such activism [by the organization]. On the contrary, the authorities would like us to be silent, to stop our activities. But they miscalculated,” Kesayeva said.

“We are acting not as members of the organization Voice of Beslan, but as victims. And even if they close down our organization, even if our appeals are rejected, we won’t stop our activities and we won’t abandon our battle,” she said.

Voice of Beslan has criticized what it calls the security services’ incompetence and excessive use of force in trying to rescue hostages taken during the three-day school seige. In June, it appealed to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, claiming that Russian authorities did not do enough to protect civilian lives during the siege.

The group has also called on the European Union and the European Parliament to investigate the Russian authorities’ handling of the crisis, and has asked the United States to publish satellite images of the school taken during the siege.

The group plans to hold a rally in Moscow on September 1 to mark the third anniversary of the tragedy, in which more than 330 people died when Chechen rebels seized a school in the North Ossetian town of Beslan.

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Related

Beslan Mothers Say New Video Refutes Official Version

Russians Remember Beslan School Killings on Festive “Day of Knowledge”

Russia Today | Sep 1, 2007

September 1st is the beginning of the school year for millions of children in Russia. In Beslan, though, it is the beginning of three days of mourning. It marks the day three years ago when more than 1,200 people were taken hostage in the town’s School Number One.

The Day of Knowledge is an exciting time for first-year pupils.  They meet their new teachers and present them with bunches of flowers. It’s an old Russian custom.  The proceedings start with the ringing of the First Bell, when a first-year pupil rings a school bell while being carried on the shoulders of a final-year student.

In one school in the southern Russian port of Astrakhan there was a special guest speaker at the year’s first assembly – Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.

“I congratulate all who are present here and those in other schools in Russia. I also congratulate the parents. For all of us it’s a great celebration – a big, bright, and beautiful celebration. As for this school, I like it very much. It will turn 50 next year, but I think it can be easily classed as modern, first of all, due to its headmistress and the team of teachers. They use a modern way of paying wages and modern ways of teaching. Much attention is paid to extra-curriculum activities. The children told me, they like to stay here after classes for several hours more,” said Mr Putin.

The day will be full of speeches and presentations before the real work begins and lessons commence. Nowadays there are many national schools in Moscow which allow pupils to study the customs of other countries, for example Georgian traditions and etiquette, or Korean national dances, language and atmosphere.

“The Orient is our future. My son learns the English and Korean languages because we are very interested in Korean culture,” explained Lyudmila Sinyagina, a pupil’s mother.

At one of the national Jewish schools classes don’t start for two more days, so there is time for some finishing touches. The celebration will include prayers and biblical readings – the key elements of the school’s curriculum.

“We try to provide the widest possible knowledge of Jewish disciplines, so that a student will not only know some parts of the Jewish law and Jewish tradition, but will also pass them on to others,” commented Aron Golovchiner, school director.

School of the future

For some in Moscow the school year is starting with a new trend in education as the doors have opened to the ‘school of the future’.

Costing $US 43 MLN, the project aims to inspire its pupils to higher levels of learning. The building is equipped with mini-labs for children to explore science, while the corridors are flowing with installations to help children think inventively. Each child will be given a personal laptop and will be able to log on to the school’s own network.

“Here, I think, children can get the maximum knowledge possible. In this school my daughter will study both foreign languages and have additional courses,” said Irina, mother of a first-year pupil.

Irina is also glad that she’ll be able to leave her daughter at school for the whole day when necessary, as it provides more than 30 hobby groups and sporting classes. The school has its own publishing centre, a picture factory, Internet club, two swimming pools and gym halls.

“Here we can see some elements of the open education – you come in and see this huge globe. It’s difficult for a child to resist and not to come closer and explore it. That’s where the world of knowledge starts. We teach pupils not only in classrooms,” believes Natalya Rybakova, Director of the school.

Meanwhile, more and more schools have tightened their safety procedures by installing CCTV cameras and electronic pass systems where a passcard is needed to enter school. 300,000 police officers are on the streets across Russia today to make sure that pupils get to schools safely.

Not the least reason for this is the tragedy three years ago in Beslan, where the first of September is not the Day of Knowledge, but the beginning of three days of mourning.

Beslan remembers

On Saturday morning people gathered in the ruins of the former school number one to mark the sad anniversary.

The school bell rang at 9:15 a.m. Moscow time, the exact time when the school was seized and the celebration of the Day of Knowledge turned into a nationwide tragedy.

President Putin has called on the country not to forget the tragedy. Speaking at the Day of Knowledge celebrations at a school in Astrakhan, he said the children who died in Beslan three years ago should always be remembered.

“Though this day is a very bright and festive one, I think that nevertheless none of us can forget the tragedy that took place three years ago. We cannot forget the children, who after the tragic events in Beslan, will never go to school. Today we must remember this, no matter what happens in this country and in the world, life goes on,” stressed Vladimir Putin.

Flowers are being laid and a remembrance service has been held to commemorate those who died.

Three years ago today the siege of school number one started in the southern republic of North Ossetia-Alania. Terrorists, demanding that Russia withdraw from Chechnya, took more than 1,200 people hostage.

The hostages were forced into the school’s gymnasium and deprived of food and water for three days until chaos broke out and 334 hostages were killed, including 186 children, and over 700 were injured.

Many aspects of the siege are still disputed – whether weapons were hidden in the school prior to the attack and how many terrorists were involved. Nevertheless for many mothers the main question is how the crossfire that took the lives of so many of their children began. The first official documents published claim the bloody gun battle on September 3 started when a terrorist bomb exploded.

Meanwhile, others hold different opinions.

“The report made by the Deputy Commission states that the explosion occurred inside the gymnasium but there is a member of the commission that believes the explosion was provoked from outside the building,” commented Larisa Khabitsova, Speaker of the North Ossetia Parliament.

The founder of ‘Mothers of Beslan’ group, Susanna Dudieva, who lost her son and niece, believes the first shot was fired by military forces from a neighbouring rooftop and provoked the violence that erupted.

“We are sure that the first shot was fired into the school and the storming of the school was conducted unprofessionally. Investigators will have to figure out whether or not it was planned or accidental,” she stated.

However, survivor Nadya Badoeva has no doubt the first explosion went off inside the gymnasium just behind her.

“When Special Forces made their way into the school a terrorist threw a grenade that fell close to Nadya. One of the troopers covered the grenade with his body, he fell on top of her and his dead body continued to protect her from the crossfire,” explained Zalina Badoyeva, Nadya’s mother.

Nadya only identified her hero a year after the tragedy, when she found a wreath where Andrey Turkin died.

The investigation continues and might one day bring peace of mind to those whose lives were so cruelly torn apart by a wider conflict in which they played no part.

. . .

Related

Putin: Children killed in Beslan must not be forgotten on festive day