Putin performs U-turn over siege public inquiry

Russian President Vladimir Putin performed a U-turn today – apparently responding to wide public dismay over the bloody school siege – and agreed to the formation of a parliamentary investigative commission.

Russian President Vladimir Putin performed a U-turn today – apparently responding to wide public dismay over the bloody school siege – and agreed to the formation of a parliamentary investigative commission.

Putin had said no public inquiry would be held, although an internal investigation would be conducted into the crisis that ended in a chaos of gunfire and explosions.

At least 330 hostages were killed and scores of people remain missing.

Although the Federation Council, the upper house of parliament, which aims to form the commission, largely follows Putin’s lead, the commission could constitute a relatively independent and public review of the crisis.

The seizure of the school in the North Ossetian town of Beslan and its bloody conclusion raised serious questions about the capabilities of Russian law-enforcement and security agencies.

In a meeting shown on Russian television, Sergei Mironov, chairman of the Federation Council, told Putin the chamber aimed to form the investigative commission.

Putin agreed, saying “we are thoroughly interested in receiving a complete, objective picture of the tragic events connected with the seizure of the hostages”.

North Ossetia’s parliament meanwhile approved a new prime minister to head the government that was dismissed earlier in the week in the wake of angry demonstrations over authorities’ failure to prevent the attack. Alan Boradzov, the republic’s former transportation minister, was nominated by President Alexander Dzasokhov, who sacked the regional government but did not step down himself.

In Washington, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said President George Bush has asked his top advisers to determine how authorities would handle a similar attack on an American school to ensure adequate co-ordination in the ”unlikely but possible” chance of such an event in the United States.

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