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Russia Marks Second Beslan School Massacre Anniversary


Russia on Friday began three days of ceremonies to mark the second anniversary of the Beslan school massacre by Chechen separatists that killed more than 330 people - about half of them children.

Russian news reports say ceremonies will be held at the elementary school in the Caucasus republic of North Ossetia where more than 30 militants held 1,000 children and teachers hostage for nearly three days.

A symphony concert in memory of the victims will be held Saturday. On Sunday, 332 school children will release a white balloon into the sky in honor of each victim.

Russian commandos launched a raid to end the siege. The operation dissolved into a chaotic gunbattle that left hundreds dead.

Many family members of the Beslan victims blame the government and Russian President Vladimir Putin for not doing enough to prevent the school attack, and for what they say was a flawed rescue operation.

The militants were demanding Russia withdrawal from the southern republic of Chechnya.

The sole surviving militant was sentenced to life in prison in May of this year. Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev, who claimed responsibility for launching the Beslan attack, was killed in July.

Separatists and Russian forces have fought in Chechnya most of the last decade.

A parliamentary commission report on the investigation into the Beslan raid is still pending.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP

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