Staunton, September 3 – From the very first days in office, Vladimir Putin showed his intentions, with the relaunch of a war in Chechnya, the destruction of NTV, the arrest of Khodorkovsky, the seizure of property for himself and his friends, and the imposition on Russia of a cult of personality, Viktor Shenderovich says.
But “the point of no return” for both him and for Russia came 14 years ago today, the Moscow commentator says, when the Kremlin leader took the decisions he did in response to the hostage situation in Beslan – and succeeded with many in covering up his crime and thus getting away with it (facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=1889695701099164&id=100001762579664).
On the third day of the crisis, Shenderovich continues, a resolution of the hostage crisis was on the horizon as a result of the appearance of Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov who offered to be a mediator to save the lives of the 300 children being held captive.
“This was an enormous chance” for their lives, he says, but it was also “an obvious political defeat for Putin who had invested enormous PR resources to de-legitimize the lawful resident of Ichkeria and Russia’s partner in the Khasavyurt Agreement.” Not surprisingly, “Putin decided to cut through this Gordian knot.”
“Between the deaths of Ossetin children and his own political defeat, [Putin] chose the variant less traumatic for himself and gave the order for the immediate storming of the school, not by the Alpha group but by the army’s special forces,” Shenderovich continues. “This was a death sentence for the hostages.”
The attack began “not with an explosion from inside as federal sources lied but with an artillery shelling of the school from outside, a fact established by numerous witnesses and reflected in the report of [Duma] deputy Savelyev.” Then the FSB moved in to clean up the scene of the crime, removing all evidence of who had committed it.
That allowed Putin to control the official investigation which blamed the Chechens and exonerated Moscow of all blame, but it did not prevent others, including journalists at Moscow’s Novaya gazeta from documenting exactly what happened and pointing the finger of blame where it belonged: at Putin in the Kremlin.
“The shooting in Beslan was more than practical,” Shenderovich says. “It was multi-functional. Maskhadov was not allowed to come out of the underground and soon the legitimate president of Ichkeria was simply killed; and while society was trying to recover from shock, Putin cancelled gubernatorial elections” and moved against the press and society.
Two years later, Putin used force against those who dared to protest, and by then “Putin had defeated everyone,” the commentator says. God alone knows how he will be punished for his crimes, but Russia has already had to pay a very high price – and in fact continues to pay it every day Putin is in power.
“Putin began as a typical personage of ‘the wild 1990s,’” Shenderovich says; but “he has ended as an international criminal responsible for unleashing several wars. But the point of no return” for him and for Russia, occurred in a small town in the North Caucasus 14 years ago with the government’s murder of children.