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Beslan Mothers Criticize Putin, Blame Kremlin

Beslan, Russia; 31 August 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Mothers of victims of the Beslan school siege lamented that the Kremlin scheduled their long sought meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday, 2 September, the day before the tragedy's first anniversary.

Susanna Dudieva, head of the Beslan Mothers' Committee, told reporters the group considered not coming because the
date coincides with a three-day mourning period.

"We have been suffering, torturing ourselves for a long time trying to decide whether to go or not [to meet Putin]
because during these days we should be here at the school where our children lived their last hours," Dudieva said. "It was painful and difficult for us. Nevertheless we have made the decision to go to Moscow to meet with President Putin, because we have a lot to say to him. We have many grievances and many questions."

Chechen militants captured the school on 1 September 2004, and demanded Russian forces withdraw from Chechnya.

Some 330 people -- more than half of them children -- were killed when the siege ended as Russian forces stormed the North Ossetian school on 3 September. Since then, the Beslan Mothers' Committee has been demanding to meet with Putin to express their grievances. They say official incompetence made the bloodshed worse.

Dudieva accused the Russian government of failing to learn from the crisis, saying another such terrorist act could happen.

Chechen militants who took the school hostage were demanding Russian forces withdraw from Chechnya.

(RFE/RL's Russian Service, AP, Reuters)

For more on Beslan, see Remembering Beslan