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Muscovites Commemorate Dubrovka Hostage Victims

A memorial meeting in 2008 of victims of the Dubrovka Theater (Nord-Ost) attack
A memorial meeting in 2008 of victims of the Dubrovka Theater (Nord-Ost) attack
MOSCOW -- Muscovites are commemorating victims of the 2002 "Nord-Ost" hostage crisis and storming by Russian security forces of the Dubrovka Theater, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

Flowers were laid and candles lit at the site in Moscow of the tragedy, which came after several dozen armed militants took 850 actors and spectators hostage at the theater, demanding that Russian military forces withdraw from Chechnya.

Meanwhile, the leader of a victims' advocacy group has suggested that the tragedy was among Russia's "political games of our national leaders."

The crisis that lasted for almost three days and ended with a gas attack conducted by Russian security forces.

Thirty-nine of the hostage takers were officially pronounced killed during the assault. At least 129, and possibly many more, of the hostages, including several foreign nationals, lost their lives.

The Russian authorities have never revealed what gas was used in the rescue bid.

Relatives of the victims established a group to defend their rights shortly after the tragedy.

That group's leader, Tatyana Karpova, told RFE/RL that seven years after it is still not clear who gave the command to use the gas.

"I'm absolutely certain that, whoever is in power, we will never get a clear answer [about the events of 2002]," Karpova said. "We are sure that both Nord-Ost and Beslan were political games of our national leaders, and nobody is going to give us the names of those responsible. But we know who those people are, and we have said that before -- it was the head of our state at the time, Mr. [Vladimir] Putin, who gave the order to use the lethal gas."