Russians hold mass anti-terror protests
Russians massed in hundreds of thousands to denounce terrorism, tuesday at an evening rally near Red Square in the heart of the city. Chechen separatists killed at least 335 people in last week's school hostage siege. Rallies were held across the country following the siege at a school in the southern town of Beslan. Half of those killed in the operation to retake the school were children. Religious and government officials addressed the crowd from a makeshift platform at the foot of St Basil's. Putin had earlier rejected talks with Chechen separatists, and ruled out a public inquiry into the storming of the school. "Why don't you meet Osama bin Laden, invite him to Brussels or to the White House and engage in talks, ask him what he wants and give it to him so he leaves you in peace?" he said. "You find it possible to set some limitations in your dealings with these bastards, so why should we talk to people who are child-killers?" he added in a meeting with journalists. Opposition politicians said the Moscow rally was intended to parry criticism of the Kremlin's handling of the crisis and Putin's failure to ensure security for ordinary Russians. Pressure on the media to toe the line increased on Monday with the sacking of the editor of the respected daily Izvestia, which splashed harrowing pictures in its Saturday edition. Putin appeared to be avoiding personal criticism for Beslan, with a survey showing most Russians blamed corrupt special forces for failing to prevent rising terrorism. Few held the president responsible. 54% said the security and police services were corrupt and 23% said they did not know how to do their job properly.