Nord-Ost. The Wait for Justice

Sep 26 2015

The Moscow theatre siege in many ways marked a turning point in how we perceive Vladimir Putin. It was the ruthless and needless gassing of hostages along with terrorists on the cold October night of 2002 that held an answer to the question many still had – who is Vladimir Putin?

by Natalia Pelevina

The Moscow theater hostage crisis, also known as the 2002 Nord-Ost siege, was the seizure of the crowded Dubrovka Theater on 23 October 2002 by 42 armed Chechens, who claimed allegiance to the Islamic separatist movement of Chechnya. Half of the terrorists were women. They took almost a thousand people hostage and demanded the withdrawal of Russian forces from Chechnya. After 57 hours and no real negotiations, around 5 am on the 26-th of October deadly gas of unknown formula was administered into the auditorium through the air condition system. As the result of the gas most people went into the state of comatose, some dying on the spot. Around 20 minutes later Russian Special Forces stormed the building, engaging in combat with the militants and killing all of them. All female terrorists were shot and killed point-blank as they lay asleep in the auditorium.

130 hostages were killed, 125 of them died from the deadly gas used by the Russian secret service.

Today many questions about those tragic events remain unanswered.

Who in the Russian secret service may have known about the upcoming terrorist attack and helped it become a “controlled” terrorist act, politically convenient for Vladimir Putin?

Why some of the female terrorists captured by the Russian armed forces months before the attack, ended up wrapped in explosives in the Moscow theatre in October of 2002?

According to many witnesses during the siege terrorists kept mentioning their final peaceful retreat from the theatre. They sounded so certain of this outcome that one may feel someone guaranteed it to them. If so, who may have done it and on what conditions?

Why did Special Forces storm the building in the early hours of the morning of 26-th of October, when we know terrorists were not and had no plans to start executing hostages. This was the explanation made to the European court of human rights by the Russian government and it is a lie. By lying like this what is Russian government hiding?

Most militants were not in the auditorium into which the deadly gas had been administered and were able to put up a fight once the Special Forces were in the building. What was the purpose of the deadly gas used in the auditorium killing 125 people?

Why were no terrorists taken alive, although it was fully possible?

Will anyone ever be held accountable for the botched rescue attempt that led to even more deaths? Hostages died because the secrecy related to the rescue operation led to medical workers having no information about the use of gas and, as a result, their inability to treat victims affectively.

For the families of those we lost during the siege pain never ceases. Years later many still live solely for one purpose – justice for their loved ones.  This justice they have yet to see. The official investigation led to nothing. No one was held responsible for the use of the deadly gas and the loss of lives that followed. No one was held accountable for the badly organized rescue operation. Instead two generals and the unnamed scientist, who created the gas formula, were awarded Russia’s hero medals, Russia’s highest honor. Families also want to know the truth. The European court of human rights in their 2011 decision on the Moscow theatre siege case requested the Russian government to conduct a new investigation into the events. This request was never met.

While Putin is in power, the truth about the Moscow theatre siege tragedy is not possible. While he remains in full control of Russia, families of those who lost their loved ones will not see justice.

The wait is painful but eventually, one day soon, justice will prevail.

by Natalia Pelevina

The Moscow theater hostage crisis, also known as the 2002 Nord-Ost siege, was the seizure of the crowded Dubrovka Theater on 23 October 2002 by 42 armed Chechens, who claimed allegiance to the Islamic separatist movement of Chechnya. Half of the terrorists were women. They took almost a thousand people hostage and demanded the withdrawal of Russian forces from Chechnya. After 57 hours and no real negotiations, around 5 am on the 26-th of October deadly gas of unknown formula was administered into the auditorium through the air condition system. As the result of the gas most people went into the state of comatose, some dying on the spot. Around 20 minutes later Russian Special Forces stormed the building, engaging in combat with the militants and killing all of them. All female terrorists were shot and killed point-blank as they lay asleep in the auditorium.

130 hostages were killed, 125 of them died from the deadly gas used by the Russian secret service.

Today many questions about those tragic events remain unanswered.

Who in the Russian secret service may have known about the upcoming terrorist attack and helped it become a “controlled” terrorist act, politically convenient for Vladimir Putin?

Why some of the female terrorists captured by the Russian armed forces months before the attack, ended up wrapped in explosives in the Moscow theatre in October of 2002?

According to many witnesses during the siege terrorists kept mentioning their final peaceful retreat from the theatre. They sounded so certain of this outcome that one may feel someone guaranteed it to them. If so, who may have done it and on what conditions?

Why did Special Forces storm the building in the early hours of the morning of 26-th of October, when we know terrorists were not and had no plans to start executing hostages. This was the explanation made to the European court of human rights by the Russian government and it is a lie. By lying like this what is Russian government hiding?

Most militants were not in the auditorium into which the deadly gas had been administered and were able to put up a fight once the Special Forces were in the building. What was the purpose of the deadly gas used in the auditorium killing 125 people?

Why were no terrorists taken alive, although it was fully possible?

Will anyone ever be held accountable for the botched rescue attempt that led to even more deaths? Hostages died because the secrecy related to the rescue operation led to medical workers having no information about the use of gas and, as a result, their inability to treat victims affectively.

For the families of those we lost during the siege pain never ceases. Years later many still live solely for one purpose – justice for their loved ones.  This justice they have yet to see. The official investigation led to nothing. No one was held responsible for the use of the deadly gas and the loss of lives that followed. No one was held accountable for the badly organized rescue operation. Instead two generals and the unnamed scientist, who created the gas formula, were awarded Russia’s hero medals, Russia’s highest honor. Families also want to know the truth. The European court of human rights in their 2011 decision on the Moscow theatre siege case requested the Russian government to conduct a new investigation into the events. This request was never met.

While Putin is in power, the truth about the Moscow theatre siege tragedy is not possible. While he remains in full control of Russia, families of those who lost their loved ones will not see justice.

The wait is painful but eventually, one day soon, justice will prevail.

Free Russia Foundation’s Press Release on Submission of Article 15 Communication to the International Criminal Court

Oct 06 2020

On 21 September 2020, the Free Russia Foundation submitted a Communication to the International Criminal Court Prosecutor’s Office (in The Hague, Netherlands) seeking accountability for Crimean and Russian authorities concerning international crimes perpetrated during Russia’s illegal occupation of Crimea. The Communication was prepared in cooperation with Global Rights Compliance and Center for Civil Liberties and is based on a focused inquiry conducted over the past year. In our inquiry, we documented crimes as part of a systematic, planned attack by the Russian state against civilians and groups in Crimea in order to discourage them from opposing the illegal occupation of Crimea and to force their departure from the peninsula. Crimes against civilians included unlawful arrests, beatings, torture, enforced disappearances, and other inhumane acts causing severe mental and/or physical pain. In particular, the crimes targeted the Crimean Tatars, a native ethnic group who had only recently returned to their homeland, having previously been forcefully and brutally displaced by the Soviet Union in 1944.

One of the principal coercive acts was the illegal detention and concomitant violence before, during, and after the imprisonment of political prisoners. Most of those detained were arrested by Russian and Crimean authorities on terrorism charges, but it was their legal, pro-Ukrainian advocacy that led to their imprisonment. In addition, trials of those arbitrarily detained were conducted in wholesale disregard of their fair trial rights. For example, some of those illegally imprisoned were denied a speedy trial, access to independent lawyers, and the opportunity to defend themselves against their arrest in a courtroom.

In order to force those illegally detained to confess to crimes they did not commit, Russian and Crimean authorities also perpetrated acts of torture and cruel or degrading treatment, the levying of additional charges against them, even more inhumane prison conditions, denial of communications with their families and threats made against them, enforced disappearances, and even, in at least one case, a mock execution.

Other inhumane acts include “punitive psychiatry” and the denial of adequate prison conditions, including the following: (i) feeding people inedible food or, at times, no food at all; (ii) facing severe overcrowding in prisons; (iii) denial of regular water supply; (iv) threats of assault against them by prison cellmates; and (v) adding pork to food – prohibited for observant Muslims. Further, medical attention was systematically inadequate or denied for many individuals.

Concerning acts of torture, it was perpetrated by different Russian authorities, including the FSB. Allegations include the use of electric shocks in an effort to get an accused to confess. One was beaten in the head, kidneys, arms and legs with an iron pipe. With another, fingers were broken. Still another endured spinal bruises and having a plastic bag placed over his head to the point of unconsciousness. Further, threats of sexual violence against a detained man were made. Murder as well. Hands were broken, teeth were knocked out in still another.

Trials were largely held behind closed doors for illegitimate reasons, and many of the witnesses were secret not only to the public but also to the Accused. Further, credible allegations exist that, at times, there were FSB or other agents in the room, silently instructing witnesses what to say and how the judges should rule. This adds credence to words, according to the Kyiv Post, heard by Arsen Dzhepparov from a senior FSB lieutenant who stated “I will prove by all possible – and impossible – means that [an Accused is] guilty – even if he isn’t guilty”.

Concerning the crime of persecution, nearly all of these deprivations of fundamental rights were carried out with discriminatory intent. Specifically, these groups were targeted due to their political view – namely, by peacefully opposing the illegal occupation of their country. Some were targeted on ethnic grounds or religious grounds on the basis of their Crimean Tatar background.

War crimes, another group of crimes punished at the ICC, were also perpetrated in addition to or in the alternative to the crimes against humanity. This includes the crime of torture, outrages against personal dignity, unlawful confinement, wilfully depriving protected persons of the rights of a fair and regular trial, and the transfer of the occupying power of parts of its population into the territory it occupies or the deportation of all or parts of the population of the occupied territory within or outside this territory.

All these crimes had the ultimate objective of the criminal enterprise – the removal of pro-Ukrainian elements out of Crimea and the annexation of Crimea into the Russian Federation without opposition, including the installation of pro-Russian elements, which include the emigration of more than 70,000 Russians, the illegal imposition of Russian law in the occupied territory, forcing Russian nationality on many Crimeans, and the appropriation of public property.

Ultimately, we hope that all the information gathered by the ICC in the context of its preliminary investigation will lead the ICC to investigate mid- to high-level Russian and Crimean officials on this basis. The international community expects responsible global leadership that follows the rule of law and expects it – no matter the situation – to be respected, especially from a state that is a permanent member of the UN Security Council. When this fails to happen, the international community must demand accountability. We hope that an investigation can be opened and responsible officials of the Russian Federation will be investigated. After an investigation that conforms to international best practices, responsible persons should be charged with the systematic perpetration of international crimes.

Novichok Use Implicates Putin’s Government in Navalny’s Poisoning

Sep 02 2020

Today, the German government has announced that Russian pro-democracy leader Alexey Navalny was poisoned by Novichok. Novichok is a deadly nerve agent developed by the Soviet government chemical weapons program and used on several occasions by the Russian government to kill its critics in the recent years.

To restate the obvious, Novichok is a poison that can only be accessed with the authority of the Kremlin. Therefore, today’s announcement by German officials  directly implicates the Kremlin and Putin in the high-profile assassination attempt on Navalny.

The choice of Novichok was not just a means  to silence Mr. Navalny, but a loud, brazen and menacing message sent by Putin to the world: dare to criticize me, and you may lose your life.

The announcement by the German government of its intent to formally notify the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (‘OPCW’) of the use of Novichok against Navalny is a meek bureaucratic half-measure that fails to acknowledge the extraordinary threat to human life posed by Putin’s regime everywhere. Taken together with Angela Merkel’s promise earlier this week to help Putin finish his Nord Stream 2 pipeline despite an international outcry amounts to condoning the poisoning and normalizing it into a new modus operandi where Putin’s murders go unpunished. Free Russia Foundation urges the leaders of the EU, its Member States and the U.S. Government to take an urgent and drastic action to punish the perpetrators of this heinous crime not only to serve justice, but to establish a powerful deterrent against new attacks by Putin’s regime globally.

Free Russia Foundation Statement on Kremlin’s Interference in Elections in Georgia

Aug 26 2020

We are deeply concerned with information recently distributed by the well-respected authoritative source Center “Dossier.” According to “Dossier,” the Kremlin is using Russian political expert Sergey Mikheev and consulting company “Politsecrets” to manipulate Georgian society, distribute disinformation and anti-democratic narratives, undermine Georgia’s Western aspirations, and interfere in free and fair elections in Georgia scheduled for October 2020.

More

Free Russia Foundation Calls for Investigation into Alexey Navalny’s Poisoning

Aug 20 2020

Free Russia Foundation is gravely concerned about the life and safety of Alexey Navalny. More

Civic Solidarity Platform Appeal with Regard to the Recent Events in Belarus

Aug 12 2020

INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY SHOULD REACT IMMEDIATELY AND STRONGLY TO RIGGED PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS AND MASSIVE VIOLENCE OF SECURITY FORCES AGAINST PEACEFUL PROTESTORS IN BELARUS More