The Jamestown Foundation notes that Defense Ministry tanks, under the command of the FSB, fired on Beslan School number one, as the school was being stormed. The revelation was made during the trial of Nurpashi Kulaev, the sole surviving hostage taker.
I have to say, I’m not actually all that surprised at this news. Storming a building of that size when you don’t know exactly what is inside is likely to require some pretty heavy duty firepower. Even though schoolchildren were inside, the military on the ground would have calculated that the risk that children would be hurt by tank fire was outweighed by the need to get into the building as quickly as possible in order to save as many lives as possible.
What did surprise me, though, was this:
Kindeyev said that the tanks were handed over to the FSB’s command because no one from the Defense Ministry, including the Defense Minister himself, has the right to order a tank to fire.
My understanding of just who has responsibility for what in Russia’s maze like security structures is pretty hazy, but I find it more than a little odd that the Defense Ministry has tanks, but doesn’t have the right to order them to fire. Can anybody out there with a better knowledge of the military help me out?