The Magazine

The Truth About Beslan

What Putin's government is covering up.

Nov 13, 2006, Vol. 12, No. 09 • By DAVID SATTER
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The evidence that is now available makes it clear that, despite Putin's promise to protect the host ages, Russian forces attacked the school in Beslan according to classic military doctrine for destroying reinforced objects without the slightest regard for innocent life. This was done although agreement had been reached between the former Chechen president and local Russian political authorities on negotiations that would have ended the crisis. It is also possible that the ease with which the terrorists took over the school was not solely the result of official incompetence. The Russian authorities may have deliberately allowed the terrorists to take over the school in order to have an excuse to destroy them.

The sad reality is that 15 years after the fall of the Soviet Union, the role of the individual in Russia has not changed. He is seen as a means to an end, not an end in himself. This is why the lives of the children of Beslan were written off the moment the school was seized, a fact to keep in mind lest we agree to give Russia carte blanche in its own "neighborhood" or look again into Putin's eyes and see something we think resembles a soul.

David Satter is affiliated with the Hoover Institution, the Hudson Institute, and the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. His most recent book is Darkness at Dawn: The Rise of the Russian Criminal State (Yale).