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Putin: Rescue of Moscow Hostages 'Shows Russia's Resolve'


Russian President Vladimir Putin says the rescue of about 750 people held hostage by Chechen separatists at a Moscow theater shows Russia's resolve. Ninety of the hostages and 50 of the Chechen rebels who were holding them were killed when special forces stormed the theater, ending the four day standoff.

In a televised address after the raid, Russian President Vladimir Putin asked for forgiveness for not being able to save everyone in the building.

The Russian leader said international terrorists were to blame for the incident and they must be defeated.

Earlier in the day Mr. Putin visited some of the former hostages who were taken to area hospitals after they were freed by special forces.

Russian security forces entered the building early Saturday morning and killed most of the hostage-takers, including the leader Movsar Barayev.

Officials said security forces decided to storm the building after Chechen rebels who were holed up inside killed some hostages.

Afterward, Russian Deputy Interior Minister Vladimir Vasilyev said Russian forces managed to save 750 of the hostages.

Mr. Vasilyev said the people they were dealing with had already made true on threats to shoot people and had threatened to blow up the building.

Russian forces used sleeping gas to subdue the hostage-takers inside who were armed with automatic weapons and had rigged up explosives throughout the building.

After the raid, many people were carried out of the building unconscious and taken to hospitals, some apparently suffering from the gas. It was not clear how those who died were killed.

After the raid, Russian television showed pictures from inside the theater hall where the hostages had been held since Wednesday night.

The red cushioned seats that had been full of hostages during the long ordeal were mostly empty. The bodies of some of the female hostage-takers were slumped in their seats.

Russian officials say they are investigating how the rebels were able to pull off the daring raid just a few kilometers from the Kremlin.

The Russian interior minister said 30 people have been arrested as accomplices of the gunmen but he did not give additional details.

The hostage crisis began Wednesday night, when a group of Chechen men and women stormed the building where hundreds of people had just begun watching the second act of a musical.

The gunmen demanded independence for the breakaway Russian region of Chechnya. Russian troops and Chechen rebels have been battling for control of the region for the past three years.

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