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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 September, 2004, 20:17 GMT 21:17 UK
Mass rallies for Beslan victims
Moscow rally
State TV urged people to attend the rally
Tens of thousands of people have rallied against terrorism in Moscow, as the nation mourns victims of the school siege in southern Russia.

Muscovites brandished banners and Russian flags in a huge show of unity.

But correspondents say there is also rising anger over the Russian authorities' handling of the siege, which killed more than 300 people.

Later, video footage taken by the hostage-takers inside the school was shown on Russian TV for the first time.

I came because Russia was slapped in the face and we will not take it
Valery, pensioner
It showed frightened children and their parents inside the gymnasium, several hooded hostage-takers, and plastic explosives on the floor, and hanging from basketball hoops.

Officials in Beslan say 107 bodies were damaged beyond recognition by the fire after the explosives went off.

Close relatives of the missing are being taken to the morgue to provide blood samples.

The BBC's Sarah Rainsford in Beslan says anguished relatives have had to go through body bags themselves as there are no accurate lists of victims.

Anger and frustration

Political fall-out from last week's tragedy continued, with Russian President Vladimir Putin indefinitely postponing a visit to Germany on Friday and Saturday.

A Kremlin spokesman said the decision was made by mutual agreement.

Russia held its second day of mourning for the siege victims, as government-endorsed protest rallies were staged throughout the country.

Vladimir Putin
Putin is under growing pressure in the wake of the Beslan deaths
People gathered in Moscow for one of several rallies with Kremlin backing.

Interfax news agency quoted officials as saying that more than 130,000 people attended the rally, held outside the Kremlin wall under the banner "Russia Against Terror".

Large crowds massed in the city centre and spilled across the Moskva River.

The BBC's Rob Cameron in Moscow says people are still consumed with anger at the events in Beslan.

"How can you kill children and shoot them, I came because Russia was slapped in the face and we will not take it," a pensioner named as Valery told AFP news agency.

The crowd observed a minute of silence at 1700 local time (1300 GMT). Anthems were played to the crowd, while senior politicians and public figures gave speeches.

Map of the North Caucasus

Moscow mayor Yury Luzhkov called for tough new security measures in the capital, which has also suffered a string of terrorist attacks in recent years.

"We must stop terrorism," he said. "We must stop being indifferent because the terrorist is living beside us, in the next apartment or the nearest hotel."

Thousands earlier took to the streets in the North Ossetian regional capital Vladikavkaz, calling for the resignation of local leaders.

Other former Soviet republics joined Russia in mourning Beslan's victims.

Hundreds gathered in the main square of Kazakhstan's largest city, Almaty.

Drivers sounded horns in the Ukrainian capital Kiev, and the country observed a minute's silence.

Putin responds

Newspapers have also been posing awkward questions, such as whether the security services really had no plans to storm the school.

Some have accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of using the rallies to deflect public anger over unanswered questions.

But the Russian president responded to his critics strongly on Tuesday, in particular to calls for talks with those seeking independence in Chechnya.

He told two British newspapers that entering talks was akin to the West negotiating with Osama Bin Laden.

"No one has a moral right to tell us to talk to child killers," Mr Putin was quoted as saying by Britain's Guardian and Independent newspapers.

But Chechen rebel spokesman Akhmed Zakayev has said the rebels had no part in the "barbaric act of terrorism".

He blamed the attack on "local radical groups... overwhelmed by a feeling of personal revenge for the brutalities of the Russian army".

Mr Zakayev, the UK-based envoy of Chechen rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov, said President Putin's "punitive policy" in the region would make a "repeat of the Beslan tragedy inevitable".

The BBC's Bridget Kendall
"A mass demonstration to denounce terrorism"

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