Beslan mothers in Moscow showdown with Putin

The mothers were speaking midway through the first anniversary of the massacre in which 331 people died after pro-Chechen terrorists seized a local school and demanded Russian troops withdraw from Chechnya.

Of the dead, 186 were children.

The mothers, who have organized themselves into a powerful pressure group, accuse Mr Putin of being ultimately responsible for the fact that the siege and its aftermath was spectacularly mishandled, that so many people died and for the fact that, 12 months later, official investigations have still not been completed.

They also claim that the ongoing inquiries are biased and officials guilty of corruption and incompetence, which aided the terrorists, are being let off the hook.

State TV yesterday showed a sombre-looking Mr Putin doing his best to deal with an extremely difficult situation. He defended his own behaviour and that of the authorities, made a series of promises and undertakings and showed a human side which he rarely allows the outside world to see. He also explained why he had chosen to invite the mothers to meet him on September 2, midway through their symbolically crucial three-day first anniversary mourning period, a decision which the mothers had argued was insulting. He had, he said, wanted time to gather together the results of the investigations so far. Anneta Gadieva, one of the mothers, said her delegation was broadly satisfied with the president's behaviour but said it had not got answers on all points.

"Our main demand was that he repent and publicly ask our people for forgiveness," she said. "He didn't give us any definitive answer to that. He just looked at us very sympathetically."

In most other areas though, he appears to have said the right things.

"In general we are pleased with the discussion," said Mrs Gadieva. "We can describe it as constructive. He seemed well-informed on some issues and, on others, misinformed but in general we are satisfied. We are happy that we found the strength to come to the meeting and voice our complaints. As for how the complaints will be handled we'll just have to wait and see." Mrs Gadieva said the delegation had not asked Mr Putin to testify in court about how the siege was handled. That is likely to relieve the Kremlin.

Mr Putin said he had declared September 3, the day the siege was broken, an official day of solidarity with all victims of terror attacks. He also revealed he had ordered monuments to the victims of Beslan to be constructed across Russia.

"It's difficult to start this meeting," he said. "Any mother, father or normal person can understand the feelings which you are experiencing. I know it all, I have been briefed about the problems that concern you." Mr Putin claimed no government was able to protect its citizens from terror attacks, pointing to America, the UK and Spain.

He said post-Soviet Russia had been badly weakened by the Chechen conflict and the post-Communist economic legacy.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'