Mother of Beslan victims demands to know why Navalny merited such harsh punishment

Photo: mirrorsbreath / Instagram

Photo: mirrorsbreath / Instagram

An activist whose husband and two children were killed in the 2004 Beslan school siege in North Ossetia has demanded to know why Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny received harsher treatment at the hands of the authorities than the militants and officials responsible for the death of her family members.

In a photograph posted online by journalist Yelena Kostyuchenko, Emma Tagaeva holds up a handwritten sign which reads, “What did Navalny do? Who did he kill?” and asks why “such cruelty” was shown to him for “much less serious charges” when “no one has answered for the death of hundreds of children”.

Tagaeva’s sign also contrasted the severe treatment of politician Vladimir Kara-Murza, who is serving a 25-year prison sentence for treason, with the negligible consequences faced by the officials responsible for the response to the Beslan siege, who were, she said, “promoted and awarded”.

The Beslan school siege began on 1 September 2004 when armed Chechen rebels held over 1,100 people hostage inside a school in North Ossetia, and ended three days later when Russian security forces botched an attempt to storm the building, attacking it with aerosol bombs and rocket-propelled grenades, killing 334 people, 186 of whom were children.

Tagaeva has long criticised the Kremlin for its handling of the crisis, and especially for the violent storming of the school by Russian forces.

Shortly after the crisis, the advocacy group Tagaeva co-chairs, the Voice of Beslan, demanded an independent investigation into the Kremlin’s response. The Russian authorities have attempted to silence or disband the group several times, and in 2016, Tagaeva and other Beslan mothers were fined for wearing T-shirts that read “Putin is the executioner of Beslan”.

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