MOSCOW, October 26 (Itar-Tass) — Moscow on Wednesday is commemorating victims of Dubrovka Theatre tragedy. Nine years ago, most of the audience, taken hostage by terrorists during the show, was released in a special police operation. Almost a thousand people - actors and audiences of the “Nord-Ost” musical were taken hostage.
A requiem service will be held on Wednesday for the victims of the tragedy and 130 white balloons will be launched into the sky around the memorial plaque near the theatre in memory of 130 people who were killed during the hostage crisis. Candles will be lit on the steps at the entrance to the theatre. The mourning events will be attended by relatives and friends of those killed and injured in this and also in other terrorist attacks: in Dubrovka, in Beslan, in Guryanov Street and Kashira Highway bombings, explosions of the Moscow-Volgograd and Moscow-Sochi planes, the Volgodonsk apartment house explosion and the destruction of the US skyscrapers.
The names of the dead will be read During the minute’s silence. Soldiers of the Guard of Honour troop will lay flowers at the memorial sign in the square in front of theatre.
In the evening October 23, 2002, as many as 40 terrorists stormed the Dubrovka Theatre and took hostage by 914 participants and spectators of the “Nord-Ost” musical. Early in the morning of October 26, most of the hostages were released as a result of a special operation. Policemen used special means, which caught the militants who had prepared to blow up the building at the slightest sign of attack, by surprise. The tragedy claimed the lives of 130 hostages.
After the raid, Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov said that “the operation was carried out brilliantly by special forces”; he claimed he had wanted a negotiated end to the crisis, but the final attack was made necessary by the reported killing of hostages. The Russian presidential special envoy for human rights in Chechnya, Abdul-Khakim Sultygov, said the bloody outcome was “a good lesson to the terrorists and their accomplices.”
Deputy Interior Minister Vasilyev launched a Moscow-wide operation to catch anyone who may have helped the militants, while his boss, Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov, urged people to be vigilant and to report anyone acting suspiciously to police. On 29 October, Vasilyev said he only had the authority to state that special chemical agents had been used and that some 30 suspected militants and their collaborators, including several civil servants and security officers, had been arrested around the theatre and in other parts of the city in what Gryzlov called an “unprecedented operation” to identify what he described as a vast terrorist network in Moscow and the surrounding region.
Russian President Vladimir Putin defended the scale and violence of the assault in a televised address later on the morning of 26 October, stating that the government had “achieved the near impossible, saving hundreds, hundreds of people” and that the rescue “proved it is impossible to bring Russia to its knees.” Putin thanked the special forces as well as the Russian citizens for their “bravery” and the international community for the support given against the “common enemy.” He also asked forgiveness for not being able to save more of the hostages, and declared Monday a national day of mourning for those who died. He vowed to continue fighting “international terrorism.”
On 29 October, Putin released another televised statement, saying: “Russia will respond with measures that are adequate to the threat to the Russian Federation, striking on all the places where the terrorists themselves, the organisers of these crimes and their ideological and financial inspirers are. I stress, wherever they may be located.” Putin’s comments came as British Prime Minister Tony Blair phoned him to congratulate him on the ending of the siege.