Moscow, Oct. 28 (Reuters): President Vladimir Putin focused on the threat to Russia from Chechen rebels today, vowing no deal with “terrorists”, while his officials dodged questions about a lethal mystery gas used to end the Moscow theatre siege.
Hours after he spoke, Tass reported a Russian passenger plane was hijacked on a flight from Moscow to Perm in the Urals. However, Russian emergency officials dismissed the report, saying: “The information of the hijacking has turned out to be untrue,” a spokesman for the emergencies ministry said.
Of the 117 hostages who died in the theatre ordeal, all but two were killed by the gas pumped in at dawn on Saturday when Russian special forces ended the three-day siege by Chechen rebels, who demanded Russian troops pull out of Chechnya.
“Russia will make no deals with terrorists and will not give in to any blackmail,” Russian news agencies quoted him as telling government ministers.
He was also quoted as saying Moscow would respond in “appropriate” fashion if there was any threat to use weapons of mass destruction against Russia. Chechen leaders, who accuse Russian forces of brutality away from the world’s gaze in their southern republic, offered again today to sit down for talks — an offer the Russians have so far largely refused.
Moscow’s top doctor Andrei Seltsovsky said 646 hostages were still in hospital — 45 of them in a grave condition.
Frustrated and exhausted relatives, carrying food parcels and presents, gathered outside iron hospital gates in a desperate attempt to learn news of their loved ones.
Doctors at Hospital No. 13 said most were expected to be allowed out today.