The video, got and spread by Beslan’s inhabitants, was done by an authorized man from the Republican prosecutor’s office of North Ossetia. That officer shot with video camera the events of 1-3 September, 2004 and the investigative actions that followed the tragedy, including on-site examination, interrogation of eyewitnesses etc. That person was also interrogated. His name is known to the investigation. But all the video-tapes got lost, as reported by Solzhenitzyn, who is the investigator at the Prosecutor General’s Office. And now, almost three years after, the video materials have been found again.
These, of course, are just small part of the pictures taken by the prosecutor’s cameraman. But even these several shots give sufficient grounds to definitive rejection of official report about the beginning and circumstances that preceded taking School number 1 by assault.
There were no explosions inside the gym, i.e. the terrorists didn’t explode any of their IEDs (improvised explosive device). Part of the IEDs was defused by combat engineers from the 58-th Army during the assault, and the rest exploded during a big fire in the gym after about 15.30.
Combat engineers Nabiev and Gagloev, who were participating in the mine clearing, told how the gym got exploded. This is the transcript of the interrogation made with them.
(Nabiev is sitting at the table and drawing the layout of the mining which consists of “four similar IEDs.”)
Nabiev: The third one was hanging here (drawing). And the one which we saw was here.
Gagloev: We got it, got it… (we managed to defuse it – E.M)
Nabiev: The third one we tried to get, but failed.
Gagloev: It’s because the height was three and half metres. It was a piece of work trying to do that. (speaking of the bomb above the backboard that got exploded later, after 15.30 – E.M.)
Investigator: And did all of them have to be interconnected?
Gagloev: Yes, they did and they were.
Investigator: A kind of circuitry?
Nabiev: No. The whole thing was balled up. Damned if I know what it was! All was a mess, it was… (speaks unintelligibly)
Gagloev: There might have been several triggering points ‘cause about eight wires were connected to each charge.
Nabiev: Well, it’s a hard job to see all that, when you’re under fire (the school was being fired at actively at the moment and the terrorists replied too – E.M.)
Investigator: And what about the breach in the wall? (he means the breach under the first window counting from the main school building, see the photo – E.M.) They say it appeared after two explosions.
Nabiev: The wall breach was not caused by that explosion. If this kind of charge had exploded inside, just look at these little balls…If such an explosion had been here (under the window – E.M.), as they say, then everything around…It was a shot…We were taking children out. No one was wounded with these fragments. And you wouldn’t find them around here (on the walls – E.M.)
Investigator: So there were no explosions inside (in the gym – E.M.)?
Nabiev: Inside, no.
Just a reminder. This interrogation above was done at 17.50 on 3rd of September, 2004. On the next day the investigators would find material evidence of the combat engineers’ words, i.e. the weapons with the use of which the first “explosions” were made. Just talking theoretically, what further steps had to be done after that?
After the terrorist act in Beslan a separate criminal case had to be started on the fact of mass loss of life on the 3rd September, 2004. At that time the investigators had been aware of the fact that most hostages who were killed, they were killed during the assault and their deaths were the result of the assault started by order given to the special mission unit from Federal Security Service (FSS) of the Russian Federation.
Prosecutor General’s Office had to examine judicially the answers to the following questions. Who took the decision about assault start? Who gave the order? What was the order exactly? Who was the first among the special mission unit soldiers to open fire at the school building and where exactly he was shooting? What kind of weapons was used during the assault and how many shots were made? What were the consequences of the use of the unselective destruction weapons banned by International Convention? And finally, is there cause-effect relationship between firing at school - from grenade-guns, tanks and helicopters – and hostages’ deaths?
At the end, the convincing answers had to be found to these questions. How well grounded and effective was the plan of such an operation involving the use of force, the fact being taken into consideration that most of the hostages were children? Why so many soldiers from special mission units Alpha and Vympel were killed during the assault which was covered with dense fire from outside? Does that mean that only initial stage of the assault was really elaborated while its other phases were spontaneous and the soldiers’ actions unprepared and tumultuary? And one more thing. The firing of the school with the use of grenade-guns that had begun at 13.05 was the actual cause of death for two people, Valery Zamaraev and Dmitry Kormilin, who were officers at EMM (Emergency Management Ministry). They had come to the school to take the corpses of the hostages killed on the 1st of September. Actually, they turned out to be a diversion meant to blunt terrorists’ vigilance. Really, the two killed and two badly wounded EMM’s officers are a safe cover for the official report about terrorists who blew up the school. Was it calculated beforehand?
In theory, the investigators from Prosecutor General’s Office wouldn’t have spent years trying to find the answers. It’s very simple. The fact is that special service’s actions and the assault itself were being documented on video by almost all special services from different departments, during all three days of Beslan. The video was meant for in-house use. FSS, Prosecutor’s Office of North Ossetia and probably the Ministry of Home Affairs have such video records. The head of North Ossetian Branch of EMM, Dzgoev, just ordered one of his assistants to follow him all three days and not only take on video everything that was happening around but take it chronologically, especially taking notes of times and contents of the orders sent by the officials from the situation room.
Thanks to Boris Dzgoev’s assistant we learnt when the first reports of fire in the school’s gym came to the situation room (it was at 13.05, just after the school got fired at with the flame-throwers and grenade-guns). We also learnt about the reaction to these reports by the chiefs responsible for the whole operation. The Chief of FSS’s special mission unit, Tikhonov, did not permit that fire brigades come to the site during several hours, while, according to Gagloev, the combat engineer from 58th Army, it would take only one distinguisher to bring the fire down in the gym. But the order was given only when nearly all the evidence of grenade-gun’s shooting had been destroyed by the fire. And in addition, more than a hundred hostages killed. Forensic medical examination found that the cause of death of many of them was “thermal shock”, i.e. their skins were injured by fire for total 100%. And those people didn’t have bullet or missile wounds.
The fire in the school gym needs to be given a separate talk. Yuri Savelyev, a State Duma member, who is also a scholar, has done a phenomenally precise research regarding the nature of the first explosions in the school and the assault conditions. He used number crunching and physical formulae in his work. And he doubted greatly that only first explosions could have been the reason of such a big fire in the gym. And it seems that his doubts were grounded, judging by the video that came to Beslan’s mothers’ hands.
3 September, 2004.
15.05. Combat engineers, Gagloev and Nabiev, leave the gym. (as indicated in case papers and reported by the officers themselves).
15.08. The gym and the school get to be fired at intensively. Three mushroom clouds rise above the school, one of them black and two white. One could hear 13 explosions during about half an hour. All this can be seen and heard on the video made by Republican Prosecutor’s Office cameraman. On the same video at the same time one can see civil people shouting and pointing up to the roof of five storey building number 37 in School Lane. The video cam zooms in. It shows people in helmets standing on the roof. (This is the position of special mission unit. Parliamentary investigative committee members would find the used fire-throwers and grenade-guns there). On the video one may hear explosions and on the left side of the screen a big cloud comes up from the school.
I believe that further firing at the school and the gyms, and also lack of timely order to extinguish the flames, lead to the extensive fire and burning of still alive but wounded, contused and helpless hostages.
Can we consider all that as a crime? Theoretically, yes. To come to this conclusion there is no need to wait for fair investigation or fair trial. Just the facts are enough to call culprits those who invented “the first explosions” and gave the order to shoot.
What do we have in practice? Before the press conference by Beslan’s mothers, on 24 July, the investigation recognized the “returned” video, made a copy from it and filed it up to the other materials of the case. But one of the victims, Valery Karpov, suspects that all the recordings have been kept all this time in the Prosecutor General’s Office’s video archives. The investigators just probably failed to see it there. Leastwise, Valery Karpov understood them so. The investigators promised to Beslan people to interrogate again the cameraman who made the found video and the combat engineers, Nabiev and Gagloev. I dare make a prediction on that interrogation results. Being threatened by the investigators of responsibility for false testimony, Nabiev and Gagloev would take back their expert judgments made on 4th September, 2004. The cameraman would undergo long interrogation on how this leak could have happened. He will probably get severe reprimand or even get fired from the Procurator’s Office. And then the public will be shown a video of firing at the mockup of the school wall built up in the firing ground situated in Moscow area with the announcement that Yuri Savelyev’s conclusions failed to get proved, and that the gym was really blown up by the terrorists.
And what else our investigators could do? They have known the truth for three years and they pretend to know nothing. They have been watching titanic efforts of “public investigators”. Some find and bring the found fire-throwers before procurators’ eyes. Some bring the used tank’s cartridge cases and give it in, requiring making a report of proceedings. Some bring the witnesses. Some find the video and pass it to the media. Some write alternative report having searched all over the school with tape measure. People are pottering, writing petitions, complaints, and open letters. A request has been written to Patrushev’s name claiming placing at the investigation’s disposal the video archives of FSS for 1-3 September, 2004. Why not write to Putin, for example? The result would be same. Those who are in power now, and while they remain in power, they will never admit their fault for hostages’ deaths. And the victims’ relatives understand that very well. But all what these people are doing is not just a useless attempt of another version of the events.
Alas! Those who really struggle against terrorism and spend millions on the study of this phenomena evolution, they realize that terrorist acts of Beslan’s range will come again. But in Russia this is realized only by those who was affected directly by all this.
All this bitter experience can just be a practical guide for future hostages and their relatives. They must know that the rescue may not come.
Novaya Gazeta ¹57 July 30. 2007