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Russian police stop rally urging truth about Beslan

Written by: Staff

MOSCOW, Sep 3 (Reuters) Russian police today broke up a human rights campaigners' rally calling on President Vladimir Putin to tell the whole truth about the deaths of more than 300 hostages in the Beslan school siege two years ago.

On September. 1, 2004 pro-Chechnya rebels seized more than 1,000 children and parents attending a ceremony to mark the start of the school year. Two days later, 333 hostages, more than half of them children, died in a chaotic storming of the school.

Commemorating the drama in North Ossetia, Russia held a day of solidarity against terrorism and observed a minute of silence today, and 333 white balloons symbolising the souls of the dead hostages flew into the sky in Beslan.

A religious service was held at the charred ruins of the school gym where the hostages had been held, and a requiem concert will be held in Beslan in the evening.

Special police dispersed a rally of mourning staged by some 80 human rights activists who gathered in Moscow near the headquarters of the FSB security service.

Many human rights activists and some victims' relatives believe that a botched rescue operation contributed to the deaths and that the authorities have deliberately covered up mistakes made by senior officials overseeing the operation.

''Putin and (FSB chief Nikolai) Patrushev must share responsibility for the death of people,'' read a poster held by Lev Ponomarev, head of campaigners For Human Rights.

''Storming of the school is the authorities' disgrace,'' read another. ''The Caucasus war spread the cancer of Nazism across Russia,'' read the one held by a woman standing nearby.

The protesters, carrying lit candles and flowers, attempted to approach a stone erected in memory of Soviet-era political prisoners, but police clamped down on them, dragging around two dozens into buses waiting nearby. Many posters were torn down.

Rights campaigner Ponomarev was among those detained.

Events in Beslan shocked the world and prompted Putin to launch some controversial political reforms, citing the need to face what he described as a ''war declared by terrorists on Russia''.

''The massacre of the innocent women and children shocked not only our country but the whole world,'' Putin said today.

''This tragedy, the inconsolable grief of the parents who lost their most precious their children will remain our common anguish forever.'' Prosecutors are still investigating the siege.


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