Victims who fled Beslan siege lose compensation

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The Independent Online

The Russian authorities have been accused of being heartless and insensitive after ordering 30 teenagers who survived last September's school siege in Beslan to return the financial compensation they were paid.

The Russian authorities have been accused of being heartless and insensitive after ordering 30 teenagers who survived last September's school siege in Beslan to return the financial compensation they were paid.

Civil servants in the southern Russian republic of North Ossetia decided the pupils did not deserve compensation because they had escaped in the first few minutes of the siege. That meant that they did not fall into the three eligible categories of victims: hostages, seriously wounded and slightly wounded. Although it was argued that the children had suffered psychologically and had often lost close friends or siblings, the government has fended off a legal challenge from their parents.

As a result, the teenagers must each hand back the 40,000 rubles (£800) they were awarded. The scandal has split Beslan, which lost 330 people in the siege, 180 of them children, and has again seen the local authorities become the target of residents' anger.

The teenagers' parents have appealed to Vladimir Lukin, Russia's Human Rights Ombudsman, and have asked the parliamentary commission investigating the tragedy to assist. "At first I didn't pay any attention to the stories [about compensation being returned]," Nadejda Tsomartova, an elderly Beslan resident, told Gazeta.Ru.

"But then I got really offended. One of my grandsons died in the siege and the other managed to get away. And now they [the authorities] were first of all giving something to us and then taking it back. It's just incredible. These children also suffered traumatically."

Arkady Baskayev, an MP, told Ekho Moskvy radio that the authorities had made a serious blunder. "In my opinion nobody has the right to take anything away from them [the children]."

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