MOSCOW, December 6. /TASS/. The 1995 operation to free hostages in Budyonnovsk, a city in southern Russia, seized by a group of terrorists led by then Chechen guerilla chieftain Shamil Basayev cannot be considered a failure, since the special forces’ actions helped secure concessions from terrorists, veteran of the Alpha special forces unit who took part in the those events and is currently Russian Presidential Envoy to the North Caucasus Federal District, Alexander Matovnikov, told TASS.

“I know that many consider that operation to be a failure, but I do not think so. Initially, terrorists refused to make concessions and behaved arrogantly. However, after our decisive actions they agreed to the proposed conditions. Basayev released all the hostages, first, expectant mothers and children and then all the rest,” he said.

According to Matovnikov, the Budyonnovsk hospital attack was a serious test for security forces, which faced an out-and-out enemy. In describing the episode, he stressed, “The militants gained a foothold in the hospital.” He also detailed how the gunmen turned the medical facility into an armed outpost to attack Russian forces, by setting up what he specified were “machine gun nests, and booby trapping it with improvised explosives.” He further went on to describe how the terrorists, “placed gasoline canisters in the hospital’s wards,” and how the gunman “divided the territory into kill zones, using patients and pregnant women as human shields,” he recalled.

Matovnikov noted that one option to free the hostages was to storm the hospital, but that was called off due to reasons beyond Alpha’s control. “A surprise attack was planned at 5 am, but Basayev’s militants captured an ambulance car, and he was listening to the radio communications, where the command was sent to all medical teams to get ready. The terrorists caught on to what was happening. We were unable to catch them off guard. On the contrary, they were waiting for us,” he said, adding that Budyonnovsk was one of the toughest operations for him.

In June 1995, a group consisting of about 200 gunmen armed to the teeth and led by then Chechen terrorist chieftain Shamil Basayev took more than 1,600 residents of Budyonnovsk hostage, herding all of them into a local hospital. As many as 129 people died in the terrorist-led siege, while 415 others were wounded. Basayev, the ringleader behind the attack, was neutralized during a special operation in Ingushetia in 2006.

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