RUSSIA: GOVERNMENT FORCES STORM MOSCOW THEATRE HELD BY CHECHEN GUERRILLAS AND END SIEGE BUT AT THE PRICE OF MANY...
- Title: RUSSIA: GOVERNMENT FORCES STORM MOSCOW THEATRE HELD BY CHECHEN GUERRILLAS AND END SIEGE BUT AT THE PRICE OF MANY DEAD
- Date: 27th October 2002
- Summary: (W4) MOSCOW, RUSSIA (OCTOBER 26, 2002) (REUTERS) SLV DAYLIGHT SHOTS OF TROOPS LEAVING SLV AMBULANCES DRIVING TO HOSPITAL; SLV RELATIVES AT HOSPITAL GATES; SLV/SV POLICEMAN ADDRESSING RELATIVES; MV AMBULANCE ENTERING (5 SHOTS) MV TWO WOMEN HOSTAGES WALKING SUPPORTED BY RELATIVE, SURROUNDED BY JOURNALISTS (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN HOSTAGE SAYING "There was gas inside. We all feel terrible".
- Reuters ID: LVA4LGRP4ERLLJIMWO0ZVTNA2YT9
- Location: MOSCOW, RUSSIA
- Country: Russia
- Duration: 00:01:02
- Topics: Crime,General,Politics
- Story Text: Russian forces have stormed the Moscow theatre being held by guerrillas, ending an attempt to bring the Chechen war to the heart of Russia, but at the price of many dead.
Seven hundred and fifty hostages held since Wednesday (October 23, 2002) night by the heavily armed guerrillas in the capital had been saved in the operation on Saturday (October 26). Sixty-five hostages were killed along with nearly all of the 34 rebels.
Many of the survivors were suffering from gas poisoning, supporting reports security forces had pumped knock-out fumes into the theatre before staging their morning attack.
Officials say that troops forced their way into the theatre after rebels, some with explosives wrapped around them, executed two male hostages to press their demand that Russia pull its troops out of their separatist southern homeland.
A woman hostage had also been shot dead earlier in the siege while trying to escape.
The end of the drama, which brought the distant Chechen war to the heart of Moscow, will be a relief to President Vladimir Putin whose own position was being tested by the crisis.
He called at one of Moscow's top hospitals to visit survivors for about 10 minutes before being whisked away in his motorcade.
Officials gave no more details of the dead hostages, but Australian and British diplomats said they had been told none of the estimated 75 foreign captives were among them.
A doctor from Moscow's main emergency hospital, Sklifosovsky, said he was treating 42 patients for gas poisoning.
The guerrilla commander, Movsar Barayev, was among those killed in an assault that Russia's deputy interior minister said had prevented a massacre of those seized while watching a popular Russian musical on Wednesday evening.
The theatre-goers, enjoying a new Moscow craze for musicals and guzzling caviar and Russian champagne, had been watching "Nord-Ost" (North-East), about a Russian Arctic explorer.
By Saturday morning, the plush theatre seats were empty except for a few black-clad bodies of dead Chechen guerrillas.
In freezing rain, the hostages were ferried quickly out of the theatre, many to hospital and away from waiting journalists.
The Muslim rebels, who had rigged up explosives throughout the building, had threatened to start killing their hostages early on Saturday if they did not see evidence their demands that Moscow's troops pull out of Chechnya were being met.
The guerrillas' daring raid had set Putin the toughest test of his two and a half years in the Kremlin.
His startling rise to the presidency was largely based on his sending troops back into Chechnya in 1999 after a three-year absence, a popular move which earned him a reputation as a tough and effective leader.
Putin links Russia's conflict in Chechnya to the U.S.-led global war on terrorism, which he enthusiastically backed after last year's September 11 attacks on the United States.
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