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Kill yours. 20 years of Nord-Ost

One ​​of the Nord-Ost hostages was unconscious immediately after being released. Photo: Justin Sutcliffe/The Sunday Telegraph/Image Sans Frontiere. Photo received by World Press Photo 2003

Moscow. October 23, 2002. 21.05. Three minibuses with armed men drive up to the theater center on Dubrovka. At this time, the musical “Nord-Ost” based on Kaverin's novel “Two Captains” is being played in the theater, there are 916 spectators and workers inside.

Having disarmed five guards who had only stun guns and gas pistols, the terrorists break into the auditorium, some of them go through the back rooms, expelling artists and other theater employees from there.

According to various sources, there are either 40 or 52 militants (the investigation has not yet been able to convincingly answer this question).

They do not put forward any demands and simply begin to mine the hall. Only a few hostages are allowed to call their relatives to say: if the security forces open fire, then for each killed ally, the terrorists will shoot 10 people.

They will voice their main demand only three and a half hours after the capture of the building: to stop the ongoing the third year of the second Chechen war and the withdrawal of Russian troops.


According to the FSB, the terrorist attack on Dubrovka was being prepared since the summer of 2002 by the headquarters of the President of Ichkeria Aslan Maskhadov. Ruslan Elmurzaev, the head of the security service of Moscow's Prima-Bank, was appointed commander of the militants. Subsequently, this person introduced himself to the negotiators as Abubakar.

Weapons were sent to Moscow in a truck carrying apples, but the car broke down along the way, and the cargo (18 Kalashnikov assault rifles, 20 Makarov and Stechkin pistols, several hundred kilograms of plastid, more than 100 grenades) had to be transferred to the trunks of several Zhiguli. Weapons and explosives were delivered to the village of Chernoye near Balashikha, to the house of a native of Chechnya, Khampash Sobraliev.

Following Elmurzaev, he started buying vehicles on which the militants were supposed to arrive at the site of the attack: taking $ 40,000 from Prima-Bank loan, he purchased Ford Transit and Volkswagen Caravelle vans. Other members of the gang purchased two VAZ vehicles and rented a garage in Ogorodny Proyezd, where a weapons depot was also organized.

the 25th of October. Movsar Baraev (center) leading a terrorist group that took hostages in Nord-Ost. The picture was taken from the TV screen, NTV

Most of the participants in the attack arrived in Moscow in October. They traveled in separate groups: some by plane from Ingushetia, some by train, some by bus. Five apartments were rented for them using fake passports.

Initially, it was planned to take hostages on November 7 – the Day of Accord and Reconciliation.

Considered three potential locations:

  • Moscow Palace of Youth,
  • Dubrovka Theater Center
  • Moscow State Variety Theatre.
  • < /ul>

    One of the participants in the attack, Esira Vitaliyeva, went around them to find out how the security system, interiors and entrances to buildings are arranged, after which it was decided that it was the center on Dubrovka, which had a large auditorium and a small number of other premises.

    Before that, however, it was decided to carry out a preliminary intimidation action: to blow up two VAZ and Tavria cars, purchased by the terrorists' accomplice Akhyad Mezhiev, at the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall, next to the State Duma and at McDonald's on Pokryshkina Street. The explosions were supposed to happen on October 17, but in the end, two cars did not explode, and the detonation at McDonald's did occur, but not at the time planned by the militants: at 13.10 instead of rush hour – 19.00. One person died – 17-year-old student Sergei Grishin.

    Explosives in the hall of the theater center. Operational footage

    Days of captivity

    An hour after the hostage-taking, the building of the theater center is cordoned off by police officers, OMON and SOBR. By this time, several people who managed to lock themselves in the utility rooms at the time of the incursion of the militants managed to leave the building through the windows and emergency exits. The militants themselves say that they will release foreign citizens (about 75 people) because they “have no complaints against them.”

    35-year-old Lieutenant Colonel of Justice Konstantin Vasilyev becomes the first volunteer who decides to exchange himself for one of the hostages. In military uniform and with an official ID, he goes to the theater center and enters into negotiations with the militants, but they do not believe that he came on his own initiative and kill him. At midnight on October 24, they themselves release 15 children, several foreign citizens and Muslims.

    By 8 am on October 24, the authorities report that a total of 41 people have been released since the capture of the theater center.

    At the same time, representatives of the Russian authorities who are trying to negotiate (for example, Aslambek Aslakhanov, a State Duma deputy from Chechnya), cannot achieve anything. 26-year-old Muscovite Olga Romanova, who came to the theater center on her own initiative, is killed. The terrorists themselves announce the list of those with whom they are ready to negotiate: these are representatives of the Red Cross, the organization Doctors Without Borders, Irina Khakamada, Grigory Yavlinsky, Boris Nemtsov and Anna Politkovskaya.

    This is how Politkovskaya described the campaign to negotiate with the terrorists:

    Anna Politkovskaya. The shelled porch of the captured theater center. Frame 

    From “The Price of Talk”

    “The soles of the shoes slip on some red muck crushed on the floor. I carefully peer into this terrible bottom, because I am very afraid of seeming too curious, but I am even more afraid to stand with my foot in frozen blood. But, thank God, this is some kind of former sweetness. Maybe popsicles. The trembling recedes a little, if not blood.

    We are waiting for about twenty minutes – this was sent “for the elder.” While he still does not go, from above, from the balcony, masked heads hang from time to time. Some masks are full, covering the faces so that it is impossible to determine facial features. Others are light, like the first one behind the counter.

    — Were you in Khotuny? ask the heads.

    — Me.

    Heads are happy. And these Khotunis (a village in the Vedeno district), it turns out, are like my pass here: I was there, so we can talk.

    — Where are you from? — I ask the question to the one behind the counter.

    — I am from Tovzeni, — he answers. — There are many from Tovzen and from the Vedeno district in general.

    There follows an incomprehensible mess of the ongoing tragedy: some “masks” come, others leave – time floating away into nowhere squeezes the heart with stupid premonitions … But there is still no “elder”. Maybe they will just shoot us now?

    Finally, a man in camouflage and with a completely covered face comes out, stocky, not thin and with exactly the same bearing as our special forces officers, who pay serious attention to physical training. He says: “Follow me.” My legs are wobbly, but I'm delirious. It turns out that this is the “senior”.

    We find ourselves in a dirty change house with a destroyed buffet. Behind is a water faucet. Someone walks behind me, I turn around; I understand that it looks nervous, but … Where to go? You might think that I have experience of dealing with terrorists in extreme conditions … The “senior” himself returns to cold reason:

    – Do not look back! You talk to me, look at me.

    – Who are you? What is your name? I ask, not too hoping for an answer.

    Bakar. Abubakar.


    There is such a generation of modern Chechens: Bakar is one of those who for the last ten years knew nothing but a machine gun and a forest, and before that only graduated from school, and so, gradually, life in the forest for them became the only one that was possible at all. Fate without options.

    — Shall we talk about business?

    — Okay.

    “First, about older children. Let go, they are children. – The first thing he asked to talk to “them” was Sergei Yastrzhembsky, aide to the president of Russia.

    – Children? There are no children here. You've been picking up our purges since they were 12, we'll keep yours.

    – To get revenge?

    – To make you feel like it.”


    • Listen to the audio version, it is read by Chulpan Khamatova.

    As a result, Politkovskaya still manages to get permission from the terrorists: she and her Novaya Gazeta colleague Roman Shleinov can bring water and juice to the hostages.

    When Iosif Kobzon came to the theater center, he manages to get a woman with three children out of the building. Red Cross employees are given an elderly man, a British citizen. Joined by Kobzon Irina Khakamadathe terrorists say they are ready to release 50 hostages if the head of the Chechen administration, Akhmat Kadyrov, comes to them, but he never appears on Dubrovka.

    Another attempt to negotiate with the militants is the son of director Stanislav Govorukhin, Sergei< /strong>, Deputy Editor-in-Chief of Literaturnaya Gazeta Dmitry Belovetsky, Head of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Evgeny Primakov, former President of Ingushetia Ruslan Aushev. On October 25, employees of the Red Cross manage to once again hand over water and juices to the hostages, the militants do not allow food to be handed over as a matter of principle.

    In the auditorium itself at this time – completely different moods. One of the hostages is trying to negotiate to be released. “One man, an Uzbek, approached the terrorist and said: “We are brothers, let me out.” He pointed a machine gun at him and said: “Sit down, brother.” Another came up with the same: “Let me out as a Muslim.” And the terrorist: “Since you are a Muslim, read at least one prayer.” And he lives in Moscow, he doesn’t know a single prayer, ”Ilya Lysak, the artist of the orchestra of the musical“ Nord-Ost ”, said about this.

    – There was another type – a smartly dressed person. He offered them money, and the terrorist said: “A woman is sitting next to you, and she has no money. Why did you decide that I would let you out, but she is not? And they didn't let him go.”

    In the photo: Leonid Roshal and a doctor carry the deceased woman out of the building. Photo: Antona Denisov/ITAR-TASS

    According to Lysak, the women did not ask for themselves, but asked to let their children go. Many of the hostages tried to talk the terrorists into conversation in order to reduce the degree of aggression towards themselves.

    From the memoirs of the hostage Svetlana Gubareva:

    “The Chechen women had valerian. They gave the hostages valerian. Baraev, after making the announcement, walked near our edge (the end of the row) and sat down approximately in the 19th row behind us, and those who were sitting nearby had the opportunity to talk to him.

    Naturally, the first question is: why us? He said that the war in Chechnya had been going on for many years, people were dying there every day, that their demands were to stop the war in Chechnya. People began to say that they sympathized with the Chechens, that they were also against the war, to which Baraev replied: “But you don’t go to rallies demanding to stop the war! You go to theaters here, and they kill us there.”

    Women began to ask: “Why us, the weak? Why don't you take Duma?” To this, Baraev said that the Duma was protecting itself well, but they agreed to exchange ten hostages for each deputy if someone expressed a desire.

    Some time after this conversation, the woman in the stalls stood up and said: “Our government is in no hurry to save us, we must do it ourselves. Let's call our relatives, friends. Let them go to Red Square for a rally demanding to stop the war in Chechnya!”

    Baraev replied to this: “Call if you want” – and ordered his subordinates to distribute mobile phones. People used their mobile phones to call their relatives. The Chechens demanded nothing but obedience from the hostages.”


    At 21.50, the terrorists released four more hostages from the theater center.

    On the night of October 26, at one of the the men in the hall lose their nerves, and he rushes at the terrorist who is next to him with a bottle in her hands. The militants try to kill him, but miss and injure two hostages. 

    For them, they themselves call an ambulance. One of the wounded hostages dies already in the hospital.

    At 5:10 a.m. on October 26, the spotlights that illuminated the main entrance to the theater center go out immediately. So it becomes known that the security forces received a command to take the building by storm.

    Special forces carry out the wounded and the dead. Photo: Anton Denisov/ITAR-TASS


    Simultaneously with the switching off of the floodlights, gas is pumped into the theater center. The authorities then, in 2002, and subsequently will call it sleepy, but its formula has not yet been disclosed.

    After 20 minutes, three explosions and machine gun fire are heard outside the building.

    “At about 5.30 everyone heard explosions and shooting in the DK area. All the relatives of the hostages ran out into the street in an attempt to break through the cordon towards the Palace of Culture. But the attempts were suppressed by police officers with the help of batons,” recalled the father of the deceased hostage Kristina Kurbatova. – I know for certain that before the use of gas by the special services, my daughter was alive. Moreover, when the hostages sensed and saw an unknown gas, Kristina made every possible attempt to save not only herself, but also other hostage children from the gas.

    the doors of the parterre began to fuss <…> When they started shooting, he began to pray. One terrorist stood very close to me, I thought that if this thing exploded on her, there would be nothing left of my face. Well, then I didn’t care – probably the effect of the gas, – said the musician of the musical Ilya Lysak.

    – Kamikaze women began to put on respirators, our oboist Pasha said to the one who was standing nearby: “You are wearing it wrong. That's how it should be.” He helped and said: “Now that's right.”

    Suicide bombers in martyr's belts, who died from gas, shots of operational shooting

    “I passed out, squeezing Yaroslav in my arms. When the assault began, seeing how the terrorists ran around the stage, I told my sister: “Cover Nastya with a jacket,” and I hugged Yaroslav tightly. He was taller than me, and therefore it turned out that he covered me, ”recalled Irina Fadeeyeva, who lost her son during the assault.

    The assault was completed by 6.30 in the morning.

    They died, according to official data, 130 people, and according to the information of the Nord-Ost movement organized by the hostages themselves and their relatives – 174 people.

    Immediately after the assault, and in subsequent years, the decision to stop negotiations with the militants and choose the military option raised a lot of questions. Here's why.

    “The hostages were poisoned”

    The assault was explained to the public by the fact that the terrorists allegedly refuse to negotiate and begin to prepare for the execution of the hostages. However, a year later, one of the generals of the Ministry of Internal Affairs told Novaya Gazeta that, in fact, on the morning of October 26, serious negotiations were planned between the militants and the presidential representative in the North Caucasus, Viktor Kazantsev.

    “We knew what the terrorists were going to demand. They wanted to release most of the hostages in exchange for a plane to fly to an Arab country. There they would have surrendered to the authorities, releasing the last hostages, and would have arranged a press conference at which they were going to make anti-Russian statements. <…> A political decision was made not to enter into negotiations,” the general said.

    Does this allow us to say that the special operation began in order not to let the terrorists out of the country and prevent anti-Russian statements?

    Verenitsa ambulances at the Theater Center on Dubrovka, seized by terrorists. October 23, 2002. Photo: Fedor Savintsev/ITAR-TASS)

    In addition, according to an investigation conducted by the hostages themselves and their relatives, as a result of the use of gas in the Nord-Ost, 125 people were killed, while it struck the audience first of all, because. the militants used respirators.

    Terrorists, after launching the gas, fired back at the security forces for another 20 minutes. That is, they had every opportunity to detonate the bombs.

    More from the materials of the investigation

    “An inquiry about the composition, concentration and duration of action of the substance received a response from the FSB Department for Moscow that a “special formulation based on fentanyl derivatives” was used (ref. No. 1/1471 dated 03.11.2003).

    According to the classification given in M.D. Mashkovsky “Medications”, fentanyl refers to narcotic analgesics: “… After the use of an antipsychotic and fentanyl, a muscle relaxant is administered to the patient, the trachea is intubated and the lungs are ventilated. In the absence of conditions for artificial ventilation of the lungs, the use of fentanyl is unacceptable … “

    The medical assistance to the hostages was organized without a single plan of action:

    • Children in serious condition were not taken to either the nearest hospital – GVV No. 1, or to a specialized toxicological one. It cost ten children their lives, and five of them received no medical care at all.
    • The evacuation of the hostages from the theater and their transportation to hospitals were poorly organized and continued for a long time. The removal of the hostages continued even after 11.00. The delivery of hostages to hospitals continued even after 10.00, that is, more than 4.5 hours after the gas was used.
    • The delivery of the victims was carried out unevenly both in time and in hospitals. For example, 213 victims were delivered to City Clinical Hospital No. 13 within 30 minutes.
    • The site for providing medical assistance on the spot, near the theater center itself, was not deployed.

    Special forces carry out the wounded and the dead. Photo: Anton Denisov/ITAR-TASS

    On December 20, 2011, the European Court of Human Rights, having considered the claim of the hostages and their relatives against Russia, recognized that the state had violated their right to life. During the meeting, representatives of the Russian Federation insisted that the dead hostages died “from an exacerbation of chronic diseases, and gas was not the cause of their death.” The court assessed it this way:

    From the decision of the ECtHR:

    “It is impossible to imagine how 125 people of different ages and physical conditions died almost simultaneously in one place due to various chronic diseases.

    Also, the mass death of the hostages cannot be attributed to the conditions in which they spent three days without sufficient drinking food or because of stress…

    The gas used by the Russian special services during the assault may not have been used to directly kill the terrorists and hostages. And in this sense, the gas used during the assault can be considered a “non-lethal indiscriminate means of destruction” … But it is absolutely clear that the gas used was potentially dangerous for ordinary people and potentially fatal for weakened people …

    The court came to concluded that gas was the main cause of death for most of the hostages…”

    More on the topic:

    The cost of talking. Anna Politkovskaya's main text about the terrorist attack at the Theater Center on Dubrovka (“the capture of Nord-Ost”). Text from 2002

    “Where did the 12 terrorists disappear?”Text by Anna Politkovskaya – that there could be more militants who captured Nord-Ost than they were killed.

    Why did she shoot? The investigation did not I was interested in a fragment of the video, in which

    after the assault, an employee shoots a still alive terrorist, taken out of the hall of the theater center

    “Nord-Ost. An Unfinished Investigation. A detailed chronicle of events and the history of the hostages.

    Third Day Rule.A longread by Elena Milashina about those who made the decision to stop the negotiations.

    A passport for a terrorist. It is known who provided the militants who captured Nord-Ost with documents. And this channel has not been closed yet

    “One of the group of terrorists survived. We found it”. Interview with Khanpash Terikbaev, who took part in the hostage-taking at Nord-Ost, left the building before the assault, and then began working with the country's top officials.

    He claims that he was recruited by the special services, but if so, it turns out that they knew about the impending terrorist attack?

    “We must know that we are not protected.” The monologue of actress Alexandra Rozovskaya, taken hostage 15 years ago together with the troupe of the musical “Nord-Ost”

    Forget getting used to it. The editors sent me to a mourning meeting on the occasion of the anniversary of Nord-Ost. I realized that at school they didn’t tell us the main thing. A report by a 20-year-old student

    The Novaya Dossier

    That was it. Based on materials from Novaya Gazeta


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