MOSCOW, September 3 (RIA Novosti) – In a solemn memorial ceremony on Tuesday, Moscow marked nine years since more than 300 hostages, most of them children, were killed in a school seized by Chechen separatists in the southern city of Beslan.
The ceremony, which took place at a downtown Moscow memorial to the tragedy, began with a moment of silence, during which 334 white balloons – the number of people killed in the siege – were released into the sky.
Dozens of Muscovites, including many students, laid flowers and toys at the memorial, outside the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the city’s Kitai-Gorod neighborhood.
Armed separatists seized the school in Russia’s North Ossetia Republic on September 1, 2004, the first day of the academic year. They demanded independence for Chechnya, a nearby republic that had seen two separatist wars since the end of the Soviet Union.
The siege lasted three days before Russian security forces stormed the building. Russia soon toughened anti-terrorism laws and expanded the powers of law enforcement agencies. The country now marks September 3 as a “day of solidarity in the fight against terrorism.”