My sister-in-law is visiting us from Moscow. My wife went to Russia 3 times since we are in the United States, but this is the first visit of her sister to Florida.
During one evening conversation around a dining table switched to terrorism. Russia has its own problems with terrorism, especially as a result of the Chechen war. There were several suicide bombings, bomb blowing in the subway when it was packed, a few blasts in the apartment buildings...
The culmintaion was the attack of the Theater Center in Moscow in October 2002, when a group of 40 Chechen (some of them - women) took over the theater Center during the performance of a musical show "Nord-Ost". There were about 800 people. Except for few actors who escaped through the side doors and windows, everyone else was taken hostage. The Chechen set the explosives so that they could detonate them and kill hostages.
They declared themselves martyrs and demanded stopping the bloodshed in Chechnya and withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya. It started at 9:15 in the evening on October 23, 2002, and it ended at 5 AM October 26 when Special Forces used gas to knock everyone out and then stormed the building.
It was a 3.5-day ordeal for the hostages. Russia acted forcefully a la Russian style.
They used military grade gas to knock everyone out. I guess the risk of the terrorists blowing the theater was overrated, as they still had time to do it, when they noticed that they were being gassed, according to the hostages, who noticed it before losing consciousness.
When Special forces got into the building, they killed every terrorist. Why? Why not just handcuff sleeping people and then bring them to justice? No, they killed them all.
At that time they brought a lot of ambulances to the place and allowed them to evacuate unconscious people and take them to hospitals. Nobody told the health professionals what was used and how to treat it, and nobody provided with antidote.
According to the eyewitnesses and participants of the evacuation, many died simply because they were not handled properly. The ambulance minivan designed for 12 people carried 30 people one on top the other. A 13-year old girl underneath was simply crushed. Several of hostages were declared to have suffocated.
The administration kept saying that nobody died besides the terrorists, but they did not allow relatives to visit the relieved hostages. Only in the middle of the day the official announced that 69 hostages were dead, but claimed that there were no children among them. By that time the officials had records that 5 children were dead.
Later the official number reached 129 people. The hostages claim that there were at least 174 people who died. The authorities kept their mouths shut.
Russia's Departmentof Health refused to disclose what gas was used. The military said it was a secret. In the death certificates there is an empty line where the cause of death should have been stated. Official declared the reason of death "Not established". based on that the courts refused to hear the claims from the relatives of the victims.
There is no one to blame. President Putin at a meeting with the press 11 months later said that people died not because of gas, as he said the gas was not deadly at all, but that they became victims of dehydration, chronic illnesses, the mere fact that they had to stay n that building for 3.5 days.
The chief doctorof Moscow (there is such official position) Andrey Seltsovsky stated that cause of death of all but two hostages - poisoning by special gas.
Until today there is no answer. And we do not even know how many people died there. The authorities lie, like they used to lie before.
Why getting ready to this operation, they did not think about people there? How difficult was it even to do by military, having the antidote, knowing that people would be unconscious, so be ready with enough help, enough buses...
Russia is a big country. It was before that deaths were not counted. "Russia is big, broads will make new babies" (a saying during Stalin's times), and still no truth today.
The brilliant military operation was to show the terrorists that they all will be killed no matter what. It was carried fast and forcefully. All terrorists were killed (while unconscious) still sitting in the theater chairs, many of them women.
The fact that there were civilians, and many of whom died was a side effect. Maybe unfortunate, but still simply a collateral damage
Could be prevented, but why bother? A Duma (sort of a congress in Russia) member Sergey Yushenkov tried to get it to the Duma committee, but failed. Later he was killed. A collateral damage of Russian political reality.
P.S. I noticed that my sister-in-law was grossly misinformed. What she was telling us about the tragedy was not exactly the facts. The difference is that what she knew came from the Russian TV. And what we know came from the Internet.