MOSCOW, March 15. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin has disclosed the full particulars on making the decision to assault Moscow’s Dubrovka theater seized by terrorists in 2002.
"Definitely, there was no other option," he said in an interview with Russian TV journalist Andrei Kondrashov, included in a documentary entitled Putin, which was released on social media. "No one but me could make such a decision," the president added.
"I am sure that if we had done nothing there would have been far more victims," Putin stressed.
Putin described the operation in detail to liberate the hostages trapped in the theater, saying that the terrorists did not intend to release them even if their conditions had been met. "They planned to shuttle the hostages to the Red Square in a bus and then gun them down and throw their bodies out on to the street to exert pressure on the authorities," the president said. "We could not let that happen," he added.
According to Putin, since the terrorists planted explosive devices throughout the premises, so it was not easy to conduct an assault operation.
Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev, who headed the Federal Security Service (FSB) back in 2002, said that special police forces had trained in a similar building before assaulting the theater.
When speaking about the use of soporific gas against the militants, Putin said at night, when the assault was about to begin, Patrushev phoned him and said that the gas wasn’t working. Then, in his words, Putin asked if an assault team was ready to enter the building knowing that militants would put up resistance. The FSB chief answered the team was ready to go. "So I told him ‘act now’," the president added.
He went on to say that by the time of the assault, "the gas had worked so the assault team and snipers could operate effectively given the condition of the terrorists inside the building."
Putin expressed regret over "the deaths of a great many people." "They died neither from shootouts nor from the effects of the gas, but - to put it frankly - from our lack of experience of operating in such a situation." "There were enough antidote doses [to stop the effects of the soporific gas], only one injection was necessary, but some people received two or three injections while others got none," he explained.
The Russian president pointed out that an investigation had followed the operation. "Under the circumstances, it was difficult to find those responsible and punish anyone… hardly any charges could be pressed," he said.
Dubrovka theater siege
On October 23, 2002, 40 terrorists broke into Moscow’s Dubrovka Theater where the "Nord-Ost" musical was being staged, they took 914 people hostage including the spectators and cast members. During the morning of October 26, most of the hostages were liberated during a special police operation. The Dubrovka siege, Moscow’s deadliest terrorist attack, took the lives of 130 people including 10 underage children.