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Theater Reopens 3 Months After Siege

January 26, 2003|From Reuters

MOSCOW — A theater seized by Chechen guerrillas in October and retaken with heavy loss of life reopened Saturday here in the Russian capital, the interior almost fully restored and the director determined that the show must go on.

Russian Orthodox priests chanted psalms to bless the building, while dozens of citizens held a candlelight vigil and leaders of Moscow's Jewish and Muslim communities looked on.

Chechen guerrillas seized the House of Culture theater in mid-performance in October, held more than 700 attendees hostage for three days and demanded that Russian forces withdraw from their homeland.

Russian troops eventually pumped gas into the building to immobilize the rebels and stormed the theater, but 129 hostages died, the vast majority from the effects of the gas. All 41 hostage-takers were killed.

Decorators have restyled the interior of the theater, just three miles south of the Kremlin, and the musical "Nord-Ost," playing on the night of the attack, will have its official reopening Feb. 8.

Tatyana Karpov, whose son Alexander died in the siege, said she was happy the show would reopen.

Karpov is one of a group of former hostages and relatives of those who died who have been trying to sue the city government for millions of dollars in compensation, a claim unprecedented in Russian legal history. A judge dismissed a first group of claims Thursday.

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