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Russian Town Marks 10th Anniversary Of Terrorist Raid

Shamil Basaev (left) in the Budennovsk hospital where more than 1,800 people were held hostage Prague, 14 June 2005 (RFE/RL) -- The Stavropol Krai town of Budennovsk today marked the 10th anniversary of a 1995 raid on the town by Chechen fighters led by radical field commander Shamil Basaev, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported.

According to official figures, the fighters held more than 1,800 people hostage for six days; 147 people were killed in the incident and more than 400 were wounded, while about 160 buildings in the town were destroyed or damaged.

The anniversary was marked with prayer services on 12 June and by a demonstration by young people in the center of town under the slogan, "We remember." Stavropol Krai Governor Aleksandr Chernogorov attended a 14 June demonstration in the town, and moments of silence were observed in towns throughout Stavropol Krai and the North Caucasus, RIA-Novosti reported.

At shortly after noon on 14 June 1995, Basaev and a group of some 195 Chechen fighters entered the town in a convoy of trucks that had penetrated Russia disguised as a transport of coffins of Russian military personnel. After a six-day standoff with the Russian authorities, then-Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin negotiated an agreement under which the Chechens released their hostages in exchange for safe conduct back to Chechnya.

According to the Prosecutor-General's Office on 14 June, about 30 of the fighters have been killed since the hostage taking; 20 have been tried, convicted, and sentenced to prison for their involvement; and 40 remain on the federal wanted list, RIA-Novosti reported. Basaev continues to play a leading role in the fighting in Chechnya and has claimed responsibility for such major terrorist incidents as the 2002 hostage taking at a Moscow theater and the 2004 hostage taking at a school in the North Ossetian town of Beslan.
About 30 of the fighters have reportedly been killed since the hostage taking; 20 have been tried, convicted, and sentenced to prison for their involvement; and 40 remain on the federal wanted list.

Audit Chamber Chairman Sergei Stepashin -- who at the time of the hostage taking was director of the Federal Counterintelligence Service, but was fired from that post a few weeks later -- told Channel One on 13 June that Basaev's raiders originally intended to travel to Mineralnye Vody and seize an airplane, with which they intended to complete a suicide raid on the Kremlin analogous to the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. Stepashin said Basaev "got frightened," changed his plan, and seized the Budennovsk hospital instead. Basaev, however, gave an alternative explanation at the time why he and his men proceeded no further than Budennovsk, claiming that they had bribed their way through every traffic police check en route at a cost of $70,000 and simply ran out of cash.

The separatist Chechen website on 14 June hailed the "successful" Budennovsk operation as having "forced the Russian authorities to heed the Chechen resistance and to begin the process of peacefully regulating the Russian-Chechen conflict of 1994-96."

See also:

Analysis: Look Back In Anger -- Ten Years Of War In Chechnya

Chechnya: Ten Years After -- The Logic Behind The First Chechen War