Moscow, 30 October 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Russia's government has revealed the type of gas used to subdue Chechen militants who were holding more than 750 people hostage in a Moscow theater. Health Minister Yurii Shevchenko said today that the gas was Fentanyl, a potent opium-based narcotic used as an anaesthetic. Opiates affect pain receptors and cause sleepiness and, in high doses, can lead to respiratory failure.
The gas killed nearly all of the 119 hostages who died after special forces launched the rescue operation before dawn on 26 October.
The Russian government was criticized for not immediately disclosing the type of incapacitating gas used in the raid, information that doctors said could have helped their efforts to save the lives of hostages.
The gas was intended to prevent the hostage takers from triggering explosives trapped to their bodies and rigged around the theater.