8 Years Ago: Chechens Take Hostages in Moscow Theater PART I

The terrorists demands toward the Russian government were to withdraw all Russian Armed Forces from Chechnya. The deadline given by them was one week, after which they would start killing the hostages.

When they were told that the withdrawal of troops was unrealistic within the short period, that it was a very long process, the terrorists put forward the demand to withdraw Russian troops from anywhere in the Republic of Chechnya without specifying which area it was.

The hostage-takers demanded termination of the use of artillery and air forces in Chechnya starting the next day, although the use of both artillery and air strikes had become something extremely rare in Chechnya already in 2001.

The Chechen terrorists used Arabic names among themselves, not the Chechen names they had been given by their parents, and the female terrorists wore Arab-style burqa clothes which are highly unusual in the North Caucasus region.

The attackers released all Moslems among the hostages.

The terrorists said they were ready to kill 10 hostages for each of their dead.

The Russian government offered the hostage-takers the opportunity to leave for any third country, but the terrorists refused.

The head of the Russian National Security Service Nicholas Patrushev offered to spare the lives of the Chechens if they released the remaining hostages unharmed.

The all-Russian NTV channel journalists recorded an interview with the leader of the Chechen terrorists Movsar Barayev, in which he sent a message to the Russian government: "We have nothing to lose. We have already covered 2,000 kilometres by coming here. There is no way back... We have come to die. Our motto is freedom and paradise. We already have freedom as we've come to Moscow. Now we want to be in paradise."


A young woman, Olga Romanova (26), managed to make her way through the police cordon and enter the theatre. She confronted the terrorists and urged the hostages to stand up to their captors. The guerrillas decided she was a Russian National Security Service (FSB) agent and led her away, she was shot and killed seconds later. Olga's body was later removed from the building by a Russian medical team.

A retired lieutenant-colonel of the Russian Armed Forces Vasilyev, wearing military uniform, was shot by Chechen from out of the windows while he was moving toward the main entrance for negotiations with the hostage-takers. Vasilyev was not an official representative of the Russian authorities and was acting at his own risk.

After dusk, a man identified as Ghennady Vlah ran across the square and managed to gain entry to the theatre. He said that his son was among the hostages, but his son did not seem to be present and the man was led away by Chechen hostage-takers, severely beaten and killed with 6 shots.

Around midnight, a gunfire incident took place as Denis Gribkov, a 30 year-old male hostage, shocked by the sadistic killing of Mr. Vlah and permanent humiliating from the hostage-takers ran over the backs of seats across the halle. 2 female hostage-takers and a male hostage-taker started shooting at him and missed, but stray bullets hit and severely wounded Tamara Starkova and Pavel Zaharov. The latter died of his fatal wound. Gribkov was removed from the auditorium, severely beaten, had a thorax blunt injury, then Gribkov received numerous incisions (typical Chechen way of humiliating enemies with knives) and finally gunned down in the restroom of the theatre.

39 hostages were set free by the terrorists on 24 October 2002, but they repeated via one of the hostages an earlier threat to start shooting their captives if Russia failed to take their demands seriously.

Two members of the Spetsnaz unit “Alpha” moving around in the no-man’s land were seriously wounded by a grenade fired from the building by the terrorists.

The raid by Russians was prompted by a panic among the captives due to the execution of two female hostages.



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