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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 30 October, 2002, 10:37 GMT
Papers apportion blame
The Russian press is full of recriminations in the aftermath of the Moscow theatre siege.

One paper, however, looks at the root of the problem: the conflict in Chechnya.

The popular Moskovskiy Komsomolets focuses on the plight of the hostages, some of whom the paper suggests were discharged from hospital too early.

"They've gone through every type of hell, and seemed to have recovered, then gone home. But now, just a day later, they have been forced to return," the paper says.

The mass-circulation Komsomolskaya Pravda blames the failure of the operation on a recent decision by the country's Interior Ministry to disband the Moscow SOBR, a special rapid-reaction unit.


Who in Russia at present feels secure?

Izvestiya

The paper says the forces which did take part in the assault had called former SOBR officers on their mobile phones, asking: "So where are you then?"

The fact that this elite team is "able to stop criminals, no matter how tough they may be, is something which everyone accepts", the paper says.

No faith

The leading daily Izvestiya is particularly blunt in its comment.

"We always knew that concern for the security and prosperity of the country's citizens was not a priority for the Russian authorities," the paper says.

That is why "we don't feel any great shock when the war in Chechnya moves in next door". Indeed, at the height of the events, restaurants and cinemas were as jam-packed as ever.

The Russian public, the paper believes, has absolutely "no faith in the authorities". The state's main responsibility is to guarantee public safety. "But who in Russia at present feels secure?"


The cruelty of this act of terrorism and the tragedy of all that has happened has temporarily obscured the main problem - Chechnya

Nezavisimaya Gazeta

But the government newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta is fed up with all the finger-pointing. And it seeks to set the record straight on one point.

"The easiest thing to do after a fight is to wave your fists," the paper argues.

It quotes a senior Health Ministry official, Aleksandr Zharov, as saying the authorities were justified in not releasing advance details of the gas used in the operation.

"The tiniest information leak could have led to irreversible consequences. The terrorists would have blown everything up," he says.

Chechen despair

The heavyweight Nezavisimaya Gazeta in turn fears people are failing to draw the right conclusions from the tragedy.

A woman weeps after laying flowers in front of the theatre
Thousands of flowers have been left at the scene

"The cruelty of this act of terrorism and the tragedy of all that has happened has temporarily obscured the main problem which lies behind those events - the problem of Chechnya," the paper says.

Of course there were "fanatics among the terrorists", it says.

"But the main driving force was the despair felt by people who are unable to propose any other solution to this problem."

What really surprises the paper is the fact that something similar had not happened in Moscow before. And it warns of a spiral of violence.

"The probability of such events increased as soon as the second Chechen war started. The longer the war goes on, the more the two sides will harden towards one another," it says.

The paper offers in conclusion a definition of terrorism, which seems almost clinically detached.

"Terrorism is a means for the individual to resist the people who oppress him," the paper says.

"There's nothing infernal here - at different times, the dark side of human nature manifests itself in different ways. Terrorism is one of the abysses of our age."

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

See also:

30 Oct 02 | Europe
29 Oct 02 | Europe
26 Oct 02 | Europe
24 Oct 02 | Country profiles
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