Skip to comments.Speech: Shaken President Putin: "We showed weakness, and weak people are beaten."
Posted on 09/05/2004 1:16:11 AM PDT by N. Beaujon
BESLAN, Russia (AP) - A shaken President Vladimir Putin made a rare and candid admission of Russian weakness Saturday in the face of an "all-out war" by terrorists after more than 340 people - nearly half of them children - were killed in a hostage-taking at a southern school.
Putin went on national television to tell Russians they must mobilize against terrorism. He promised wide-ranging reforms to toughen security forces and purge corruption.
"We showed weakness, and weak people are beaten," he said in a speech aimed at addressing the grief, shock and anger felt by many after a string of attacks that have killed some 450 people in the past two weeks, apparently in connection with the war in Chechnya.
Shocked relatives wandered among row after row of bodies lined up in black or clear plastic body bags on the pavement at a morgue in Vladikavkaz, the capital of North Ossetia, where the dead from the school standoff in the town of Beslan were taken. In some open bags lay the contorted, thin bodies of children, some monstrously charred.
In Beslan, people scoured lists of names to see if their loved ones survived the chaos of the day before, when the standoff turned violent Friday as militants set off explosives in the school and commandos moved in to seize the building.
Beslan residents were allowed to enter the burned-out husk that was once the gymnasium of School No. 1, where more than 1,000 hostages were held during the 62-hour ordeal that started Wednesday. The gym's roof was destroyed, windows shattered, walls pocked with bullet holes.
Regional Emergency Situations Minister Boris Dzgoyev said 323 people, including 156 children, were killed. More than 540 people were wounded - mostly children. Medical officials said 448 people, including 248 children, remained hospitalized Saturday evening.
Dzgoyev also said 35 attackers - heavily-armed and explosive-laden men and women reportedly demanding independence for the Chechen republic - were killed in 10 hours of battles that shook the area around the school with gunfire and explosions.
Putin made a quick visit to the town before dawn Saturday, meeting local officials and touring a hospital to speak with wounded. He stopped to stroke the head of an injured child.
But some in the region were unimpressed, as grief turned to anger, both at the militants and the government response.
Marat Avsarayev, a 44-year-old taxi driver in Vladikavkaz, questioned why Putin and other politicians didn't "even think about fulfilling the (militants') demands to save the lives of the children. Probably because it wasn't their children here."
During his visit to Beslan, Putin stressed that security officials had not planned to storm the school - trying to fend off potential criticism that the government side provoked the bloodshed. He ordered the region's borders closed while officials searched for anyone connected to the attack.
"What happened was a terrorist act that was inhuman and unprecedented in its cruelty," Putin said in his televised speech later. "It is a challenge not to the president, the parliament and the government but a challenge to all of Russia, to all of our people. It is an attack on our nation."
Including the school disaster, more than 450 people have been killed in the past two weeks in violence. Two planes crashed nearly simultaneously on Aug. 24, killing 90 people, and a suicide bomber killed eight people in Moscow on Tuesday. Chechen separatists are suspected in both attacks.
Putin took a defiant tone, acknowledging Russia's weaknesses but blaming it on the fall of the Soviet Union, foreign foes seeking to tear apart Russia and on corrupt officials. He said Russians could no longer live "carefree" and must all confront terrorism.
Measures would be taken, Putin promised, to overhaul the law enforcement organs, which he acknowledged had been infected by corruption, and tighten borders.
"We are obliged to create a much more effective security system and to demand action from our law enforcement organs that would be adequate to the level and scale of the new threats," he said.
An unidentified intelligence official was quoted by the ITAR-Tass news agency as saying the school assault was financed by Abu Omar As-Seyf, an Arab who allegedly represents al-Qaida in Chechnya, and masterminded by Chechen rebel leader Shamil Basayev.
Also, the Federal Security Service chief in North Ossetia, Valery Andreyev, said Saturday that investigators were looking into whether militants had smuggled explosives and weapons into the school and hid them during a renovation this summer.
It was still unclear exactly how the standoff fell apart into bloodshed at 1 p.m. on Friday. Officials say security forces were forced to act when hostage-takers set off explosives. But some questioned that version.
The militants seized the school on the first day of classes Wednesday, herding hundreds of children, parents who had been dropping their kids off, and other adults into the gymnasium, which the militants promptly wired with explosives - including bombs hanging from the basketball hoops. The packed gym became sweltering, and the hostage-takers refused to allow in food or water.
One survivor, Sima Albegova, told the Kommersant newspaper she asked the militants why the captives were taken. "Because you vote for your Putin," one militant told her, she said.
Another freed hostage said a militant told her, "If Putin doesn't withdraw forces from Chechnya and doesn't free our arrested brothers, we'll blow everything up," according to the Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper.
Russian officials said the violence began when explosions were apparently set off by the militants - possibly by accident - as emergency workers entered the school courtyard to collect the bodies of hostages killed in the initial raid Wednesday.
Diana Gadzhinova, 14, said the militants ordered her and other hostages to lie face down in the gymnasium as the bodies were collected.
"They told us that there were going to be talks," she was quoted as telling Iszvestia. Others also told of how militants appeared to be confused and surprised at the initial explosions.
Hostages fled during the blasts, and the militants shot at them, prompting security forces to open fire and commandos to move in, officials said.
The explosions tore through the roof of the gymnasium, sending wreckage down on hostages and killing many. Many survivors emerged naked, covered in ashes and soot, their feet bloody from jumping barefoot out of broken windows to escape.
With families gathering for wakes for the dead Saturday, some were vowing vengeance.
"Fathers will bury their children, and after 40 days (the Orthodox mourning period) ... they will take up weapons and seek revenge," said Alan Kargiyev, a 20-year-old university student in Vladikavkaz.
The funding is all derived from the same sources.
We attacked our allie and defended islamic fundamentalists. How very clintonion.
"That worries me for the Russian people. Putin could use this as a way of going back to the old ways."
That's exactly what I thought after reading the following;
"Putin took a defiant tone, acknowledging Russia's weaknesses but blaming it on the fall of the Soviet Union, foreign foes seeking to tear apart Russia and on corrupt officials. He said Russians could no longer live "carefree" and must all confront terrorism."
Putin is acknowledging their complaints and promising to act on them.
"Generally, there's problem with security for people here. In the whole country, in Moscow and elsewhere, on the planes, trains, streets, everywhere and anytime. There's constant talk about it, on the subway for ex., through loud speakers they repeat: "Citizens pay attention to suspicious objects, suspicious people!". That's of course an ordinary fiddle-faddle. In essence, nothing is being done, and this what had happenen proves that the most elemental measures to ensure security for our people are not set up."
From the Gazeta, 9-3-04 "Yuri Levada conversed Irena Lewandowska"
The problem is that the Chechen movement for independence has been hijacked by Muslim extremists including Al-Qaeda and those who practice the Wahabi sect of Islam. Most of the fighters are not even Chechens any more but Muslims from around the world.
Lets be clear here, the Russians are just as guilty of atrocities in Chechnya as these bastards are in Russia. Is it justification - no, but what the world needs to understand is that these are not Chechen rebels fighting for some noble cause of independence and freedom, but blood thirsty terrorists from Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, etc... who have adopted the Chechen cause as an excuse to shoot non-muslims.
As far back as the early 90s there was an influx into Checnya of Saudis, etc...to fight as part of the Mujahadeen against the perceived Russian invaders.
You do not see mentioned in the MSM that these are Islamic Terrorists. Why? Because that would lend credibility to Pres. Bush's cause. Kerry wants to believe that if you leave the terrorists alone, simply ignore them, they will not bother us. Unfortunately, they are like a storm just over the horizon, it may not be raining yet, but it is coming and when it hits it will hit with a fury if left unchecked.
Hit them in their own homes, yes bring liberty and freedom, but have the forces of evil FEAR the reaction of the United States should they attack us any place in the world. Let them not feel safe anywhere.
general ping (you've already been to the thread)
I managed to track down what appears to be the parent organization at the IRS website.
Fund for Victims and Hostages of Moscow Terror
Until October 2006
The charity was set up after the Moscow theater attack.
I used may PayPal account to make my donation. They are a PayPal verified member. So far as I can tell it is a legit organization, but I am nowhere near being an expert at this sort of thing.
If you visit the "Wayback Machine" you can see that the MoscowHelp.org website has been around since November 23, 2002.
My understanding is that TV news, which for a while had some independent outlets, is now entirely in the hands of the state. Furthermore a number of newspaper reporters who have criticized corruption have been killed and no proper investigation of these murders has been done. Some of the articles I have seen posted here from Pravda lately are of the quality of a supermarket tabloid. Things aren't as bad as they were under the USSR, but they are headed in that direction.
"We showed weakness, and weak people are beaten,"
The sleeping bear has awaken!!
Oh, I agree, it is not like the Chechens are innocent by any means. They brutally slaughtered any who was against their cause...Russians, fellow Chechens, you name it...
There is a certain percentage (probably growing) who do in fact want to escalate the conflict. I mean the Chechen national anthem is "Death or Freedom", must speak somewhat to the national attitudes.
It seems foreign fighters were involved in this conflict from the very beginning, and yeah, who adopted who is probably irrelevant. My point, poorly stated, was that the cause of Chechen independence is not likely on the minds of the fighters who have rallied to the cause from other nations. I think some fight simply to fight a larger power.
There are so many factions who ae fighting in Checnya, you need a scorecard...there is the Chechen freedom fighters, Chechens loyal to the Russians, Russian military, Russian gangsters, Chechen gangsters, Foreign mercenaries, and I am sure there are smaller groups as well. The country is pretty much a mess...with the general populations getting caught in the cross fire.
Russia is trying to make a point with Chechnya, it started out as Yeltsin trying to prevent Chechen independence as a way to rally people to the flag and draw attention from his failings and it has truly become a quagmire for the Russians.
I didn't say they were fair. Non-Muslims were forced to pay money, but they are not supposed to be slaughtered. Also, modern Muslims don't pay much attention to that sort of stuff anymore than Christians go around looking for witches to kill.
Many religious sayings are reinterpreted in modern times and not taken literally.
I think we should fight terrorists and encourage the modernization of Islam. We can't and shouldn't kill them all.
The Chechens were deported by Stalin. The ones that wanted independance from Russia were ALL called terrorists even tho' there were moderates.
Putin went after the moderates. That made the terrorists stronger I think.
There is a lot about Chechens at www.rferl.org/
It is possible this school take-over was payback for when Inguish were kicked out of N. Osetia a few years ago.
There was a war and some Inguish were just kicked out to Chechnya I think. Many were radicalized by this.
Many accounts of this tragedy mentions that there were Inguish there.
Check www.rferl.org/ for the history of that.
Here is a link to articles about the history of the Chechen crisis.
There is no possible excuse for what happened in Beslan, but there may be a history behind it. Bad policies may encourage terrorism.
That part of the world has to have winners and losers. They don't compromise too much.
"We showed weakness, and weak people are beaten,"
What a perfect example of what GWB and Cheney and other speakers at the GOP Convention were saying.
Hopefully, Americans can connect the dots between what Putin says about this situation and the stance America must take on terrorism.
Never mind the "strong" rhetoric of Kerry and Edwards. Everything about them shouts weakness so loud that one can hardly hear their words!
Putin rightly calls them terrorists while the AP still refers to those animals as "militants".
What will it take to make the AP wake up and smell the coffee?
The Russians are finally admitting they lied--they weren't just wrong--about the numbers of people in the school. Lies just infuriate people and plays into the terrorists' hands. The terrorists are tryong to make the government look bad, and when the government lies, it looks bad.
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