Who is Really to Blame for Dubrovka?

The Moscow Times reports that many relatives of the Dubrovka massacre believe that the Kremlin is just as responsible for their loss as the Chechens, and they are taking brave action to defend themselves:

Relatives of those who died in the Dubrovka hostage-taking in 2002 urged the Prosecutor General’s Office on Wednesday to investigate whether senior officials were responsible for the deaths. The relatives also recounted horror stories of loved ones who died hours after being rescued from the Moscow theater. “We have documents proving that the storming and the improper organization of medical aid to the hostages actually killed our children,” said Tatyana Karpova, head of the Nord Ost victims’ committee who lost her son in the attack. “Nord Ost” was the musical playing when the theater was seized Oct. 23, 2002.

A total of 130 hostages died, most from the effects of an unknown gas that special forces pumped into the theater to knock out the Chechen attackers and their captives. No officials have been charged over the rescue operation that ended a three-day standoff. Karpova told reporters that the relatives had filed an appeal with prosecutors to investigate the actions of Vladimir Pronichev, a deputy director of the Federal Security Service who headed the rescue operation; General Alexander Tikhonov, head of the FSB’s special operations center; and FSB director Nikolai Patrushev, among others. Karpova said a lack of medical care was to blame for at least 69 of the deaths, including that of her son Alexander, 31, whom she said lay among the unconscious and dead bodies of hostages on a bus for seven hours before he died.

A 13-year-old girl, Kristina Kurbatova, arrived at the hospital unconscious, was declared dead, and was put in a morgue refrigerator, her father wrote on a “Nord Ost” relatives web site. The father said that he came to the hospital the next day, and when he asked a doctor to establish the cause of death, the temperature of the body indicated that the girl had died in the morgue. Another girl, Nina Milovidova, 14, died of asphyxiation while being transported to the hospital on the floor of a bus under the bodies of other hostages, her father, Dmitry Milovidov, said alongside Karpova at the news conference Wednesday. “We will never forgive Putin for their deaths,” he said. He said he and other relatives have sent a letter to President Vladimir Putin that reads in part: “You noticed that one protester in Estonia died because no medical attention was provided, but why don’t you care about the 130 who died for the same reason in Moscow in 2002?”

The government has sharply criticized Estonia for the stabbing death of a Russian citizen during violent riots that broke out in late April in Tallinn over the relocation of a Soviet war memorial. A spokesman for the Prosecutor General’s Office, Alexander Vasiliyev, said Wednesday that prosecutors would review the appeal, but he could not say what action, if any, they would take. A years-long investigation by the prosecutor’s office into the theater attack has been suspended — meaning investigators are no longer actively looking into the case but relatives are not allowed to review any of their findings. Milovidov and Karpova expressed concern that authorities had not learned from past mistakes, noting that Pronichev was sent to the scene of the Beslan school hostage-taking in 2004 to assist in the rescue operation there. More than 330 hostages died, most as special forces moved in to end a three-day standoff.

No senior officials have been charged over Beslan. “We submitted our complaint not to take revenge on them but to protect people from their mistakes in the future,” Karpova said.

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