We discussed your reaction to the violent end of the siege in our global phone-in, Talking Point.
Russia will pay 300m roubles ($10 m) for information leading to the arrest of Chechen rebel leaders Aslan Maskhadov and Shamil Basayev.
The men have been accused of involvement in the Beslan school massacre.
Meanwhile, dramatic video footage from inside the school in Beslan during the siege has been aired on Russian television.
It shows adults and children packed into the school gymnasium as heavily-armed, masked men walk around the room.
Beslan is preparing to bury more of the at least 326 people who died on the last day of the siege.
What should President Putin do now? Should Russia maintain its hard-line policy towards Chechnya?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:
Putin needs to start with his own military. As of now, the Russian army is made up of young, inexperienced, demoralised and poor men. Russian troops are expected to go into a foreign territory and somehow win while respecting the human rights of the Chechens. How can these young men fight an effective battle against terrorists when they have faulty equipment, low pay, and no reason to fight?
Calvin Brodus, Long Beach, CA, USA
There is two ways for him. One is to keep Chechnya under control and tighten security in Russia. The other is to admit the full independence of Chechnya. The former way will be a bloody way and cost a lot. The latter one will be a little humiliating but peaceful and cost much less.
There is a big difference between justifying terrorism, and accepting that it was inevitable. Terrorism is evil, in any form, that is not being debated. What is being debated, is what causes terrorism, and how to stop it. History makes it obvious to us that injustice is the cause of terrorism, where there are no political channels to pursue. The Chechens have seen plenty of state terrorism at the hands of the Russian forces, that is also beyond debate. Yet, we are reluctant to punish that form of terrorism, or even address it, even though it is the route to a better life for all. Terrorism is like a disease. When a man is ill, he will cough. The issue should focus on identifying and curing the disease, and not on muffling the cough. As long as this disease of injustice plagues the earth, people will continue to cough.
J P Francis, London, England, UK
I am so heart sick over what has happened. Putin should do what ever he has to in bringing those responsible to justice. After all isn't that what President Bush has done? I stand behind President Putin in what ever he deems just.
Jan, Kent, USA
The genocide of 300,000 Chechen men, women and children by the evil Putin regime is ignored by our spineless Western leaders, while there is uproar about 355 killed at Beslan. An outrageous hypocrisy. Russia started this. For Putin, the butcher of 35,000 Chechen children, to call others "child-killers" is the ultimately hypocrisy. Talks are needed. The IRA also killed children, but that didn't stop the UK doing a deal with them and thousands of lives in NI have been saved as a result. The war in Chechnya has nothing to do with Islamic extremism, and everything to with Russian imperialism and colonialism. Russia is the last European country clinging on to Imperial ideology and they need to snap out of it. I condemn Beslan for the terrorism it is. But Russia carries out a Beslan every day. It's just that the Russians block the Western media from reporting on it there.
John O'Connell, Wexford, Ireland
Mr Zakayev should keep his comments to himself. He is correct, when he states that over the past 10 years of war in Chechnya, there have been war crimes. But he forgot to mention the fact that it is the Chechen rebels who are committing these war crimes. Or would Mr. Zakayev dare to suggest that the killing of innocent woman and children is not a war crime? Nothing justifies the Chechen cause, they proved to the world that the so called freedom fighters are all just a bunch of terrorists with the wrongful support of a few dangerous liberals in the west. The British government should do what is right and extradite Mr. Zakayev to Russian authorities as he is part and parcel of the Chechen terrorist movement. How would the British government feel if Moscow gave political asylum to IRA leaders? Its just not right, frankly speaking its quite appalling. The atrocities committed in Beslan should prove once and for all that the Chechen rebels are dangerous international terrorists that must be pursued and destroyed at any cost. If what happened in Beslan does not convince those critics in the west that the Chechen rebels are terrorists, then nothing will. I hope the Russians continue to rebuff their western critics.
Also, Western governments should stop employing a clear double standard as the Russians have not only the right, but a duty to pursue and destroy fundamentalist Islamic terrorists associated with the Chechen cause, they pose a grave danger to the civilized world. The west only undermines their own war against terrorism by suggesting that Russia should negotiate with these terrorists. What we are witnessing, is an internationalization of fundamentalist Islamic terrorist cells, who are all networked to one another and share a common ideology. The enemy Russia faces, is the same enemy the west is facing. Enemies of democracy, freedom and peace.
Aram Oskanian, New York City, NY - USA
This tragedy is so horrific that there is no need to show pictures as graphic as we are seeing. The verbal reports and written words more than adequately described the horror of Beslan. I know a picture is worth a thousand words but as we already have those words reduce the amount of pictures. The sight of a young girl re-entering a building that then kills her is not something we had to see. Please respect humanity don't degrade it to an entertainment best suited to the Coliseum arena.
Alan McLaughlin, Staines, England
I am consumed with grief and anger over the school massacre. I can't stop thinking about those poor kids and their grieving families. The civilized world needs to rise up. These Islamist Terrorists must be eliminated, and we all must make a stand. The terrorists are jealous of the rest of the world, and they have nothing to lose. No change in economic policy will make the terrorists stop doing these horrific things, because their sole aim is to wreak havoc in the world. Dysfunctional Islamist Extremism (DIE) is a disease that must identified, isolated and destroyed.
Scott Mettler, Raleigh, USA
As long as Muslims continue to find excuses and justifications for their terrorism, we in Russia will continue to pound them hard. They hope against all logic that we'll just take their blows and thank them for that. If you come to Russia with a sword, you will die from that sword. And also a word to the Western media: As long as you file one sided reports accusing Russian special forces of atrocities, while completely ignoring to report the barbaric acts by Chechens against Russian soldiers and civilians in Russia itself, you will continue to be barred from Chechnya. That is the way it is, it is not debatable, and you cannot change it.
Max, Moscow, Russia
Putin is absolutely right, there can be no negotiation with child murderers. Further more what are you going to negotiate with them about, this group were not Chechen separatists but Islamic terrorists who want to establish an Islamic super state in the region. Any attempt to justify this horror by citing past injustice is just pathetic - why can't you just condemn these inhuman monsters?
No-one's going to stop this tragedy with retaliation or escalation. The Chechen terrorists seem to be trying to say "We can take and give more pain than you can." Unless there are Chechens willing to speak out against this perverse, twisted pride in being the worst demons in hell, all any of them can look forward to is a much stronger nation matching them brutality for brutality. Forward thinking is an area in which they so far seem incompetent.
Frank Syopski, Syracuse, USA
In my mind, the Beslan School Massacre overshadows 9/11 as a new low for Muslim extremists. I think of it as 52 hours of "Auschwitz for Children" It renders the broadest legal definitions of words like, "criminal" or "atrocity" meaningless. If ever there were a reason to use Orwellian re-conditioning on the conspirators, this is it. Let September 1-3, 2004 mark the time when the modern Muslim world turned a corner.
Nicholas I. Kandis, Tucson, AZ,USA
Remember that this was a lose-lose situation. If Putin retaliates militarily, then the terrorists win by showing that Russia is an imperialist nation, and then the Chechens will retaliate with more acts of terrorism. If Putin does nothing, then it shows that Russia has been pacified by this terrorism, and more terrorist attacks are likely. It is just like after 11 September 2001. If Bush didn't go after al-Qaeda, then it looks like the United States is weak. If he went into Afghanistan, it shows that the United States is aggressive towards Muslims and imperialistic, meddling in the affairs of Muslims once more. There is no way Putin will come away unscathed from this one, in my opinion.
Patrick, Plymouth USA
No one in their right mind can fail to condemn most rigorously the extreme cruelty and violence directed against the schoolchildren of Beslan. That, however, cannot stop anyone from being very critical of the professional qualities of the authorities who were responsible for the crisis once it happened. The area was not cordoned off, civilians were allowed close to the buildings and allegedly professional police and military never seemed to have control of the situation.
MM, Hull, UK
I see people outside Russia follow the situation from time to time and "miss" many facts. Those who blame Putin and Russia for unwillingness to give independence to Chechnya have no comment on what happened there 1996-99. They had their independence from Mr Yeltsin. What did they do with it? Rebuild the republic from oil money? Improve the medical, education system? Attract investors? Instead of all these normal steps for civilised society, they sold people in slavery, introduced public capital punishment. Armed Chechen aggressors in 1999 invaded Dagestan, a neighbouring republic, part of Russian Federation. Where were all of you, who now rigorously advise Mr Putin to give the "rebels" independence?!
I am watching to see how the Russian government reacts to this attack. I am specifically waiting to see if they will show the same restraint they have urged Israel and other victims of similar mass terrorist atrocities to show. It's always easy to tell other people how to react when you are not the victim.
I am immensely saddened as humanity steps one level lower. I can't forget that thousands of children die daily and we have stepped down that level long time ago. I ask every citizen to protest the loudest way possible, go to the streets, but don't commit acts of violence, because in every outburst someone is being made an orphan, a widow, a mother without her essence. Please, we have to show responsibility for everything that is happening to the world, we are responsible for each other. Terrorism cannot prevail. The problem is that people are not condemning it loud enough.
Ana Manrique, New York, USA
This type of violence cannot be resolved peacefully. Non-Russians should stay out of it and support Putin no matter how he chooses to handle it.
Jerry, Chesyer, New York, USA
I am ashamed that many in the West have seen fit to criticise Russia's handling of this latest Muslim terrorist action. President Putin should do whatever is necessary, by any means necessary, to not only disarm, but destroy these separatists.
Marvin Price, USA
The old proverb goes that if you decide to strike a king, be sure to kill him. The Chechens have tweaked the nose of a giant, and it is safe to assume that there will be substantial retaliation. Indeed, given the unhealthy mix of anger at the Chechens and traditional Russian nationalism, it is hard to conceive President Putin would not respond forcefully and brutally.
James E Geoffrey II, Falls Church, Virginia, USA
The innocents will continue to die, and the evil will continue to command armies and conquer people and dreams, as long as mankind slumbers in apathy.
No words can describe this loss of life. However, let's get back to reality and try to see what is the root cause of terrorism in order to uproot it. The political systems of the day which only have self regard are the cause. People are only interested in their own (national/economical) gains and interests and their actions in turn produce such evil people who feel that they are liberators or freedom fighters and not terrorists. As the saying goes one man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist. Politicians will have to give in and let go of their pride and interests before these terrorists/freedom fighters shed so much innocent blood.
Asif, Lusaka, Zambia
Enough of talking. Fight terror Mr Putin. There is no rationalisation to the evils perpetrated by the terrorists against defenceless children. Whatever may have Russia's ineptitude in responding to the attack, the world must stop rationalising the terrorists' motives along conventional terms and take a firm stand against these evil-doers.
Wondering if Mr Blair or Mr Bush would negotiate in a situation like this, think about it. They would have done the same thing! It is easy to preach about what others should do, when you are thousands of miles away.
I condemn those who speculate the recent tragedies in Russia and keep squealing about Russia's "hard-line policy towards Chechnya", violation of civil right, letting them go, their sufferings etc. You have no idea what you are talking about! Here is a little history lesson for those who support and justify anything that would harm Russia's Sovereignty. Chechnya had been given chance once to get independence after two years of senseless war (Khasavyurt peace agreement, 1996).
Want to know what they did? They proclaimed the Independent Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, abolished the Criminal and Civil Laws, closed law-courts and lived by Shariat, practiced public executions (there was a video footage shown all over the world) with neither appropriate trial nor lawyers. They also closed all public schools, libraries, theatres, etc etc etc. The main business for the Chechens was kidnapping and selling non-Chechens into slavery on a large scale, and stealing oil from Russian oil-pipe lines running through Chechnya.
Russia did not interfere until the Chechen independent people invaded adjacent Dagestan, the Russian soil, trying to export medieval chaos and tyranny they lived in all over the Caucasus and whole Russia. After series of terrorist attacks in five Russian cities resulting in hundreds of lives of innocent people in 1999 Putin, having strong national support, started a second Chechen campaign. I witnessed the consequences of some terrorist attacks. We had no choice.
I am disgusted with the people who blame Russian authorities for their actions back then and especially now. You cannot say that there were no Chechens behind the recent attacks and right away adds that if Russia does not withdraw its army from Chechnya similar attacks will continue. What a hypocritical scoundrel under protection of hypocritical western society.
Vadim, Moscow, Russia
A difficult one. Clearly there is a desire amongst Chechens for greater independence, but equally clearly those who organised the recent atrocities are unfit to govern, and so are their sympathisers. Putin should ensure a dialogue is kept open with peaceful Chechens regarding greater autonomy. A condition of this approach however must be a zero tolerance approach to the terrorists, by both the Russians and the Chechens. It is not enough for peaceful Chechens to say they deplore the recent acts; they must help in tracking down these evil people and bringing them to justice.
Richard, Chesham UK
Putin is a post communist tyrant where democracy and transparency are stifled and brute force is used as the solution. If democracy does not come to Russia, the 'outer' regions will become embroiled in civil war and legitimate responses to the unyielding nature of the regime. Putin should either resign or open up dialogue with ALL Chechen rebel groups. Experience in Northern Ireland shows that once 'terrorists' are drawn into dialogue they become moderate and responsible leaders or else become marginalised and extinct.
Philip Walker, Valence, France
As heinous a crime as this is, we seem to have all missed the point as we did with 9/11. The real question is 'What drives any human being to this extreme?' Many reasons I'm sure, but as far as I can tell the main reason in this case is having your own children butchered by Russian troops.
Richo, Melbourne, Australia
Mr Putin has only one recourse of action. That action is retaliation. America did it, Russia has to do it too. No one should condemn the Russians for defending themselves. The sad part is that there will be more innocent blood shed when countries do defend themselves. May God help us all. For one day there will be no end to the killing.
Dirk, Atlanta, USA
Journalists have to stop calling these people "rebels" or "hostage takers" or "freedom fighters" or anything similar. These people are brutal terrorists!
Brian, Virginia, USA
There is no way that Putin can appease the Chechens now. If he were to offer independence or enter into talks then it will send the message to all other terrorists groups that the way to achieve your aims fully or in part is to go out and murder schoolchildren. If Putin were to give in now then we shall all be suffering the same fate as Beslan.
The first thing that Putin must do is to ensure that the blame for these terrible murders is laid firmly where it belongs and that is at the feet of the hostage takers, their backers and financiers and their religious leaders. The current lefty media attempt to blame President Putin, armed Russian irregulars or anyone else other than the Muslim Terrorists themselves.
Matt, London, UK