Accessibility links

Russians in Day of Mourning for Hostage Victims - 2002-10-28

In the wake of a hostage crisis that ended with 117 hostages dead, Russian President Vladimir Putin says Russia will not be intimidated by terrorists. People are marking a national day of mourning for those who died.

President Putin said international terrorism is getting more ruthless and vowed to deal with terrorists "no matter where they are." The Russian leader said his country will not make any deals with terrorists and will not give in to blackmailers.

Mr. Putin spoke two days after Russian forces stormed a theater in Moscow where Chechen rebels held more than 700 people hostage.

Monday was designated a day of mourning for those who died during the crisis. Hundreds of people laid flowers at the theater where the hostages were held captive and flags flew at half-staff around the nation.

But while many people have supported the government's handling of the crisis, there has been criticism as well.

On Sunday, Moscow's chief doctor said almost all of those who died during a raid Saturday to free the hostages were killed by a gas used by Russian forces to subdue the Chechen militants.

Doctors say they do not know exactly what type of gas was used and that is making it difficult to treat the victims. Also, doctors say the hostages were already in a weakened condition because they had not eaten or slept much during the crisis. This made them more susceptible to the effects of the gas. Many of the former hostages are still in the hospital.

World opinion has so far been very supportive of the Russian leader. A spokesman for President Bush called the event a tragedy. The Canadian prime minister said while some hostages died in the raid, Russian forces "probably saved a lot more lives."

The hostage-takers had rigged explosives throughout the theater and threatened to blow it up if Russian forces stormed inside. The fast-acting gas made that impossible.

The hostage crisis has also focused more attention on the conflict in Chechnya, where Russian forces have been fighting rebels for the last three years.

The rebels say they are fighting for independence. But President Putin has said numerous times that the rebels have ties to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network and are no better than terrorists.