PRAGUE, September 3, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- People in Beslan and all over Russia today are today commemorating the second anniversary of the bloody end to the Beslan hostage tragedy.
The crisis ended in the deaths of more than 330 people, over half of them children. It began on September 1, 2004 when a group of militants demanding an end to the war in Chechnya took more than 1,000 children and adults hostage in a school in Beslan, in the republic of North Ossetia.
Mourners lay flowers and wreaths, lit candles in memory of those who died in the battle that broke the siege.
Oleg Kusov, an RFE/RL Russian Service correspondent in Beslan, says the town is calm and is very deep in mourning. No political speeches or declarations have been made, no official meetings organized.
He says that "many relatives of those who died spent the whole night in the school's gym."
Kusov says that mournful music is being played and that at 13:05 local time, a minute of silence was observed, not only in Beslan, but also in the whole Northern Ossetia. That was moment two years ago when special forces started a chaotic rescue operation that ended the two-day siege.
During the afternoon, people visited the cemetery where the victims were buried. However, Kusov says many people decided to remember their loved ones at home, not in public places, in keeping with Ossetian tradition.
Relatives of the victims returned to the town from many different regions to be together.
Acts of commemorations were held in many other parts of Russia during the day.
In Moscow, police beat and detained several Russian human rights activists as they held an unsanctioned demonstration to mark the second anniversary of the Beslan tragedy.
Rights activists gathered in front of the headquarters of the Federal Security Service (FSB), waving posters demanding to know "the whole truth" about Beslan.
Until now there has been no definite answer to the question of who bears most responsibility for the bloody denouement of the crisis, the militants or Russia's security services.
Police and special Interior Ministry forces quickly moved in, tearing up the placards, beating some of the demonstrators, and taking them away in police vans.
(With reporting from Beslan by Oleg Kusov of RFE/RL's Russian Service)