Russia’s secret service has offered a near €8.8m reward for accurate information that could help “neutralise” Chechen rebel leaders Shamil Basayev and Aslan Maskhadov.
News of the reward broke as state television was broadcasting footage of Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov briefing President Vladimir Putin on the investigation into the school hostage siege that left more than 350 dead in southern Russia.
Ustinov said that more than 1,200 people had been in the school – the first official admission that the number of hostages had been so high.
Initially the government said about 350 had been seized.
The reward offer was made a day after the Russian Foreign Ministry said it was to seek the extradition of a rebel Chechen who has been granted political asylum in Britain.
The Federal Security Service (FSB), the main successor to the Soviet KGB, said the two rebel leaders had been responsible for “inhuman terrorist acts on the territory of the Russian Federation.”
Russian officials have accused Basayev and Maskhadov of masterminding last week’s attack in Beslan.
Ustinov said 326 hostages were killed and 727 were wounded in the attack, which ended on Friday in a wave of explosions and gunfire as hostages tried to flee and special forces and armed civilians tried to aid them.
Last night, the Foreign Ministry said Russia will take new steps seeking the extradition of people it says are linked with terrorism, including rebel representatives Akhmed Zakayev – an envoy for separatist former Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov – who is living in London.
A captured gunman from the Beslan school siege said on state TV that he was told Maskhadov was behind the attack.
In London, Zakayev denied that Maskhadov had played any part, and alleged the gunman’s TV statement had been extracted under torture.
“The claims of President Maskhadov’s involvement in the terrorist act are part of a well thought-out disinformation campaign, which also includes officials’ statements about the presence of Arab and African fighters and foreign mercenaries among the terrorists,” he said.
Another target for extradition is Ilyas Akhmadov who living in the US.