Russia: New Beslan Footage & YouTube

Global Voices Online
Thursday, August 9, 2007

It will be three years on September 1 since the beginning of the 2004 Beslan school siege - which ended with the deaths of 331 people, 186 of whom were children.

And on October 23, it will be five years since the beginning of the 2002 Dubrovka/Nord-Ost theater siege in Moscow. At least 129 hostages lost their lives then.

In a comment to a recent post by Marina Litvinovich (LJ user
abstract2001, founder of the comprehensive Russian-language resource on all the Beslan-related developments, of Beslan), a U.S.-based reader asked this question (RUS) about president Vladimir Putin's responsibility for the tragedies:


[...] Reading your notes and other people's opinions, I sometimes find myself a bit perplexed. Why is it that Nord-Ost and Beslan are treated as "the crimes of the regime"? I've encountered this view often and not just in your journal. I don't see it this way. The Nord-Ost hostage rescue headquarters had to bear responsibility - or, yes, there was a total mess in Beslan. But the desperate words "the criminal regime" conceal something worse - an unwitting exoneration of those who had actually made Nord-Ost and Beslan happen. The terrorists... It starts to feel as if the terrorists are not guilty at all. And when the two planes were blown up that same year [August 24, 2004]? It's obvious that a [bribe-taking] cop who allows just about anyone onto the plane is guilty of criminal negligence. But is this cop the regime? But those who blew up the plane are immeasurably worse. They are the obvious evil. I understand that analogies [don't work well in this context] and I don't know exactly what the the left-wing U.S. journalists are writing about 9/11. Or are they also putting the blame for the instant killing of 3,000 compatriots and destruction of the country's symbol not on the terrorists, but on the FBI and the CIA - which have incredible material resources at their disposal, unlike those half-literate cops from Beslan?

Marina Litvinovich replied (RUS):

You are right: with Nord-Ost and Beslan, there're crimes committed at the operations headquarters. Very often we speak of "the regime's crimes" because I (as well as many others) know how decisions are being made in emergency situations. Putin makes the key (political) decisions. Other decisions are taken by the head of the FSB [Federal Security Service), head of the MVD (Ministry of Internal Affairs) and their subordinates. In the case of Beslan, it was Putin (along with [FSB head Nikolay Patrushev and MVD head Rashid Nurgaliyev]) who decided there'd be "no negotiations" and [ordered] "to prepare for the storming." And it was Putin who [ran] things during Nord-Ost (I saw it myself). [Litvinovich used to head the Internet Department of Gleb Pavlovsky's Foundation for Effective Politics and, among other things, worked on Putin's 2000 presidential election campaign.]

As for the terrorists and their guilt - they've been punished. Well, thank God for that.

What we're talking about here is that not a single public official who made criminal, wrong decisions in Beslan and [Nord-Ost] has been punished.

During 9/11, the government was trying to save people, and, as far as I know, firefighters and rescuers were acting professionally.

In the case of [Nord-Ost], 130 people died, and of this number the terrorists killed three, if I'm not mistaken. Who is to blame for the deaths of 127 people?

In the case of Beslan: 330 people died, and the terrorists killed approximately 40 of them. Who should bear responsibility for the deaths of the rest of them?

Despite years of official investigation, these and other crucial questions about Dubrovka/Nord-Ost and Beslan tragedies remain unanswered.

One of the key mysteries in the Beslan story is the cause of the two explosions that, around 1 P.M. on Sept. 3, rocked the gym where over a thousand hostages were being held. Russian authorities insist that it was the terrorists who set off homemade bombs strung all around the gym. Recently, however, a video has emerged, in which two Russian bomb experts are heard saying that, judging by the nature of the damage, there could have been no blasts inside the gym - and this seems to lend support to a claim that special forces were responsible for the initial explosions.

On July 30, Marina Litvinovich posted the new footage on YouTube, here. She was delighted (RUS) to have reached so many people in such a short period of time:

I've been making the clips till 6 A.M. today and was uploading the Beslan video of Sept. 3-4, 2004, footage of the prosecutor's office. While I was making them, I really felt like getting drunk - quickly and with vodka, because it is simply impossible to watch all this ;((


To save space, I've uploaded [the video] on YouTube (pravdabeslana). And it turns out it was the right thing to do. YouTube rules! The clips have already been watched by hundreds and hundreds of people - even though there've only been links from my LJ [blog] and today from [opposition site].

But on July 31, two clips - parts 6 and 8 of the Sept. 4 examination of the scene by the prosecutor's office experts - were deleted. Litvinovich wrote (RUS):

[...] On the one hand, this is right, on the other - it's wrong.

In part 6 - there's the blown off head and legs of [a female suicide bomber]. In part 8 - a couple more corpses of the terrorists.

What can I say? This is what the examination was like - and I've uploaded it the way it was, facts remain facts, I haven't edited anything out. I've written a warning everywhere, to save people's nerves. Should I have edited the corpses out? I don't think it would've been right.

I, of course, understand that YouTube has to be cheerful, but this footage is unique, it's got to exist. Maybe not as accessible as it is on YouTube, but where should I put it then? I'll solve this problem somehow, of course, and upload it all on, but not everyone who's interested in the subject (especially those who don't speak Russian) will get there...


One reader alleged that Litvinovich was being "jammed" and another suggested appealing to YouTube, explaining that the footage was "significant politically and historically" and thus should be kept online, but in the end, LJ user nl unearthed a rather obvious explanation for what initially may have looked like censorship - the YouTube Community Guidelines:

Graphic or gratuitous violence is not allowed. If your video shows someone getting hurt, attacked, or humiliated, don't post it.

YouTube is not a shock site. Don't post gross-out videos of accidents, dead bodies and stuff like that. This includes war footage if it's intended to shock or disgust.

All 12 parts of the video - and other relevant footage - can be downloaded here, at The disclaimer typed in red warns that children and people who are "emotionally unstable" should not watch this video.

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