Nord-Ost Theater Siege


Nord-Ost Theater Siege
   Also called the Moscow theater hostage crisis or the Dubrovka theater hostage crisis. On the evening of 23 October 2002, 42 gunmen who claimed allegiance to the Chechen separatist movement stormed a crowded theater in the Dubrovka area of Moscow during a performance of the musical Nord-Ost. After taking hostage some 900 spectators, the terrorists, under the leadership of Movsar Barayev, demanded the withdrawal of Russian forces from Chechnya. Frantic negotiations involving a number of preeminent Russian politicians ensued, and despite an offer to let the terrorists depart for a third country, no resolution of the crisis could be achieved.
   In a predawn raid on the third day of the crisis, Spetsnaz forces of the FSB entered the building after filling it with an unknown airborne agent that rendered hostages and their captors unconscious. All of the terrorists were killed (most were shot), along with 130 of the hostages, almost all of whom died of gas poisoning; there were no Spetsnaz casualties. The principal cause of fatalities was the mysterious aerosol anesthetic used by Spetsnaz rather than gunfire or explosives. The government blamed the terrorists for the loss of life, arguing that they had begun assassinating hostages when the Kremlin failed to meet the 6:00 a.m. deadline on 26 October 2002 for withdrawal of federal forces from Chechnya. However, it is clear that the assault was planned well before its execution, as was evidenced by the notification given to foreign diplomats in advance of the siege. The people of Russia strongly supported Vladimir Putin’s harsh response to the crisis. The terrorist and guerilla leader Shamil Basayev subsequently claimed responsibility for planning the attack. In the wake of the crisis, the United States added several additional Chechen groups to its list of international terrorist groups. The longterm consequences of what was framed as “Russia’s 9/11” included a crackdown on media reporting of ongoing national emergencies, an increase in the intensity and brutality of counterterrorism operations in Chechnya, and changes in Russian military doctrine that permitted strikes on foreign soil to prevent future acts of terrorism.
   See also Chechen Republic of Ichkeriya; Security services.

Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. . 2010.

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