- The Washington Times - Friday, September 10, 2004

From combined dispatches

MOSCOW — A color-coded alert system, tighter controls on foreigners and restoring the death penalty are among the proposals to strengthen Russian security in the wake of a series of Islamist terror attacks culminating in a massacre at a school, dubbed “Russia’s September 11.”

Several of the measures — particularly the color-coded alert system — echo those adopted by the United States after the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Also, President Vladimir Putin announced yesterday that Russia’s parliament will conduct an investigation of the school massacre, reversing himself after expressing reservations that a public inquiry would turn into a “political show.”

When Russia’s lower house of parliament, the State Duma, returns to session Sept. 22, it will consider a package of measures that includes tighter rules for registering foreigners’ addresses and their transit in and out of the country, as well as closer controls on car registrations, the Gazeta newspaper reported yesterday.

Some lawmakers called for reinstating capital punishment, which is allowed by law but was halted by Russia after it joined the Council of Europe human rights organization in 1997.

“I don’t exclude that parliament may lift the moratorium on the death penalty for terrorists,” Duma Defense Committee Chairman Viktor Zavarzin said.

Aman Tuleyev, the governor of the Kemerovo region, said he did not want to wait until terrorists went to court.

“We shouldn’t even take them prisoner. Capture some for investigative purposes, as for the rest — ‘while trying to escape,’” he was quoted as saying by the Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper.

Last week’s 53-hour siege in the southern town of Beslan, blamed by officials on Chechen terrorists, ended with the deaths of at least 326 hostages — about half of them children — and sparked criticism of the security services.

A 7-year-old boy died yesterday, bringing the total death toll — including 11 members of the special forces and at least 30 militants — to at least 368.

“Everyone wants a full and objective picture of all the tragic events linked with the hostage-taking in Beslan,” Mr. Putin told Sergei Mironov, speaker of the upper house of parliament.

Russia has endured catastrophic terror attacks in recent weeks: More than 440 people died in twin airplane bombings; a suicide bombing in Moscow; and the school massacre in Beslan.

The color-coded alert system will be among measures considered by the Duma because it would “inform the public about the terror threat,” said Vladimir Vasiliev, head of the Duma’s Security Committee.

“This is not a tradition with us, and we have no legislative basis for it,” he said. “But it appears that it’s needed, so that the public, which we are calling on to resist terrorism, to defend itself, will be prepared.”

The specifics of the alert system were not released.

The U.S. system — which has five colors ranging from green for a low risk of terrorist attack to red for a very high risk — has been criticized by security experts for being too vague. The Bush administration established the system after the September 11, 2001, attacks.

Mr. Putin has sought to portray Russia as a U.S. ally in the fight against global terrorism, which his critics say is a way of deflecting scrutiny of his military campaign against Muslim rebels in Chechnya.

Russian officials this week were quick to capitalize on a visit to Moscow by former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, widely admired for his leadership after the September 11 attacks. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was among those meeting with Mr. Giuliani.

Russia started toughening its security measures five years ago after apartment bombings blamed on Chechen Islamists killed more than 300 people in Moscow and other Russian cities. Those measures included more identity checks for people entering train stations and airports, and police screening of truck traffic.

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