- Title: RUSSIA: FUNERALS HAVE BEGUN FOR THE VICTIMS OF A MOSCOW THEATRE SIEGE
- Date: 29th October 2002
- Summary: (U4) MOSCOW, RUSSIA (OCTOBER 29, 2002) (REUTERS) SV MAN LIGHTING CANDLE SV SECURITY SV OF PEOPLE LIGHTING CANDLES OUTSIDE THEATRE AND BRINGING FLOWERS (2 SHOTS) MCU GIRL CRYING SLV OF PILES OF FLOWERS
- Embargoed: 13th November 2002 12:00
- Location: MOSCOW, RUSSIA
- Country: Russia
- Topics: Crime,General,Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA1M83I4MKQ5Q8MVHXT680MDV4C
- Story Text: Funerals have begun for some of the victims of a Moscow theatre siege, as it emerged that the mystery gas responsible for the deaths of 115 hostages may have been opium-based and not a nerve agent.
More than 300 of the hostages are still being treated in hospital for the effects of the gas, 16 of them in a serious condition.
A grieving Russia buried the first victims of the Moscow theatre siege on Tuesday (October 29).
Under grey skies and drizzle, families began to bury loved ones killed in the siege. Four funerals were held in the Moscow region. Other victims were to be flown to their home regions out of two city airports.
The Russian government has refused to name the gas even to doctors treating hundreds of the hostages. Western experts have suggested the nerve agent BZ may have been used.
Russian security forces said they used the gas to knock out the Muslim Chechen separatists, who were later seen slumped unconscious with bombs strapped to their bodies or in nearby seats. They had vowed to blow up the theatre if it was stormed.
Over 300 of the hostages are still being treated in hospital for the effects of the gas, 16 of them in a serious condition.
Relief at the dramatic end to the siege quickly turned to anguish as the death toll climbed remorselessly and medical officials announced that only two hostages had been shot throughout the three-day ordeal.
Hundreds of limp hostages were carried out of the Melnikova Street theatre unconscious and rushed to nearby hospitals, but doctors complained official secrecy meant they had not been told what antidote to use to revive the sick.
Despite backing President Vladimir Putin's decision to order the rescue operation Washington has continued to press for details of the lethal agent.
Doctors said three days of captivity, with little food or water had made the hostages particularly vulnerable to the toxic agent, especially the young and old. Many died of heart or respiratory failure.
One of Russia's political parties, The liberal Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) demanded a parliamentary inquiry into the decision to storm the theatre and security lapses that allowed over 50 Chechen guerrillas, heavily-armed and laden with explosives, to launch the audacious attack.
The FSB domestic security force dismissed a report in Tuesday's Izvestia daily that said a policeman suspected of aiding the guerrillas was under investigation.
Putin, who has made no reference to the gas controversy in his public statements since the drama ended, ordered his military chiefs to review standing orders to tackle terrorism and vowed no surrender.
Mainstream separatist Chechen leaders, who accuse Russian forces of brutality away from the world's gaze in their mostly Muslim southern region, condemned the hostage-taking and again called for direct talks with the Russian government on the future of the separatist province.
But they have warned the government there could be more such attacks, possibly targeting Russia's many nuclear facilities, unless the Kremlin began meaningful peace talks rather than rely on its military to impose a pro-Moscow administration.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
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