The Moscow theater hostage crisis (also known as the 2002 Nord-Ost siege) was the seizure of a crowded Dubrovka Theater by 40 armed Chechens on 23 October 2002 that involved 850 hostages and ended with the death of at least 130 people and injuries if 700. The attackers, led by Movsar Barayev, claimed allegiance to the Islamist separatist movement in Chechnya. They demanded the withdrawal of Russian forces from Chechnya and an end to the Second Chechen War.

In 2018 new information about this tragedy was published at russian LIFE.RU article "Five minutes to assault"
We add a translation of this article and photos with our marks to help reenactors in learning history of this tragic event and recognition of amunition and equipment of CSN FSB Alpha and Vympel team members.

Five minutes to assault.

Exactly at 6 o'clock in the morning on October 26, one of the most unique anti-terrorist operations in the history of the special services began. About two hundred members of the A and B directorates of the CSN FSB in just a few seconds eliminated the group under the command of Movsar Barayev, who captured the audience of the musical Nord-Ost in Moscow. One of the participants in those events told how they managed to destroy the bandits and what was the uniqueness of the operation.

Assessment of the situation

Many of the special forces team mebers who arrived at the scene of the hostage taking in the theatrical center were already on vacation or just left the location of the unit for a short rest before a long trip. The situation was extremely difficult - under a thousand hostages, hundreds of kilograms of explosives with striking elements, and a closed space, in which even during exercises it would be difficult to maneuver. The vast experience of antiterrorist work, including that obtained by the army and other special units, seemed to come to naught. However, in a state of shock, people with the profession of “anti-terror specialist” almost never stay, and if they do, it is extremely short. Members of teams A and B, which consisted not only of the staff on duty, but even of those who were supposed to be on leave or on trips, arrived at the site and received the first order from the leaders of the operational headquarters - to equip and carry out secret reconnaissance.

Exploration through underground communications and the installation of sensitive microphones through the roof almost immediately gave the first results. Not only the exact number of terrorists became known, but also the routes of their movement inside the premises — invaluable information for specialists in planning an assault operation. Along with the "underground" groups, experts on "external" surveillance worked - through the roof, walls and utility rooms it was possible to gather information not only about armed militants, but also about female suicide bombers and the central improvised explosive device, which could easily fold the roof and supporting walls buildings inside.

In addition to a large number of small arms, army equipment, which included not only hand grenades, but also anti-personnel mines, the militants managed to deliver to center of Moscow 150 kilograms of explosives collected in suicide belts with bearings, bolts and screws, and two large improvised explosive devices assembled from artillery shells and hidden in gas canisters. By the end of the second day of the seizure, it became obvious that, unless decisive action was taken to free the hostages, the militants would not only use small arms, but also explode the main explosives installed directly in the auditorium.

Another problem, according to former FSB officers, was the dispersal of terrorists across the territory of the theater center. Special Forces officers point out that access to the control of explosive devices was with several people in the hall, and during the assault, the slightest delay in the actions of special forces would allow terrorists to close the detonator circuit. In such situation, it was necessary not only to simultaneously enter the building from several directions, but also, in general, to determine the most convenient and fast "entry points". In this, according to former members of the CSN, the training at the second facility, the Meridian House of Culture, built on a similar project, helped. Anti-terror specialists from the first day worked out the assault on the similar building not far from the Kaluzhskaya metro station.

Executives decided to storm building simultaneously from two directions. The first vector of advancement was the auditorium, where it was necessary to eliminate the militants who "kept their finger on the button" and were ready to undermine the IED. For the elimination of the primary goals were selected especially experienced specialists with silent VSS and VAL rifles. Each of the snipers was assigned not only the sector of firing, but also a specific target, for the defeat of which even a specific place, row and special signs of militant were indicated. According to the officers of the special forces, only two or three seconds were given to defeat the targets after entering the stage, and the special forces for this task had to sharpen all instincts awakened during special training as much as possible. The second direction for the assault was the central entrance, a quick breakthrough through which was needed for clearing of office spaces and the preparation of ways for the evacuation of civilians. The particular difficulty of this task was due to the fact that after the start of the assault, the militants would immediately go into the corridors to repel the attack.

Anti-terror specialists note that explosive devices were a serious danger not only for the assault, but also for the preparation of the initial positions: anti-personnel mines and improvised stretch grenades, which should have signaled the terrorists about the beginning of the assault. All the work on their installation, as experts note, was carried out taking into account all the subtleties of sabotage work - entrances, exits, dead-end and through passages were blocked so that it was practically impossible to penetrate the premises of the building. Amateurs are not familiar with such schemes, according to the former operatives, which means that the more experienced specialists trained Movsar Barayev’s gang.

Huge preparatory work is the removal of improvised stretch grenades and additional exploration, because the storming of the building did not begin from the street, but already practically from the depth of the building, where it was necessary to first reach in secret.

No right for mistake

At 6 o'clock in the morning - an hour after the filing of the sleeping gas through ventilation - the Alpha and Vympel officers receive the command: "Assault!" Even the former operatives of the CSN of FSB, not to mention those who still on duty, refuse to disclose the whole procedure, but some details are still known. Former officers say that the operation could have failed at the preparatory stage - any mistake during the observation, movement of Alpha and Vympel members could have disastrous consequences. The slightest noise, such as, for example, a door hit by a butt of a submachine gun or a fighter stumbling on a step, would instantly unmask the entire group and reduce the preparation of the assault to zero. After a few dozen people armed with special and silent weapons, rushed into the building, the time went on for seconds.

"Mostly worked with silent weapon, pointwise. Of course, there was no shooting, as in the films they were shown. Single shots to neutralize the enemy as quickly and quietly as possible, a short inspection, then movement again" - former operative.

The former officer, for whom, even as a lieutenant, storming the theatrical center was the first operation as part of a unique anti-terror unit, he notes that, despite statements to be ready to die, death was clearly not part of the militants' plans.

“They fired from everything that they brought with them. While we were moving along the corridors, three or four magazines was shooted, this is the minimum. They threw a couple of grenades too. There were no KIA, but the group commender took few scratches" - former operative.

Five minutes to assault

The time spent by fighters of Alpha and Vympel team on the assault, differs markedly depending on the source of information. Some reported that it took half an hour to storm, others wrote about 15 minutes. Participants in the events recall that the elimination of the terrorists on the approaches and directly in the auditorium by the two groups of special forces members took no more than five minutes. It took about 10 more minutes to finish off those who locked themselves in the office space and were actively shooting back. The group that got onto the stage first through the opening punched in the wall in advance got an extremely difficult task that nobody had done before: the elimination of women with suicide bobmer belts, clogged with explosives and striking elements.

"Sniper fire from silent weapons eliminated all the militants who were in the hall at that moment. Fighetrs shooted to the heads because belts with a kilogram of explosives may explode from bullets hitting body” - former operative.

After a few minutes of the battle, it was all over finished - 40 terrorists, including the terrorist leader Movsar Barayev and suicide bombers who were ready to put the belts with explosives into action, were eliminated.

“It was all done very quickly. One of the militants in the hall, after hitting from a silent rifle from a fell down on the floor with armed grenade in his hand, which he never threw" - former operative.

Former member of CSN note that from a technical point of view, the operation of destroying militants in the theater at Dubrovka was phenomenal - all the militants were neutralized with a single strike, and even close fire contact and several grenades thrown by them did not prevent Alpha and Vympel groups from storming without loss. The participants of event note that after the assault and the resque of hostages, the special forces groups went to the base, realizing that the work was done with absolute efficiency. Unfortunately, after a few hours it became known that not everyone was saved. As the special commission later finds out, due to the general turmoil and inconsistency of the medical and rescue services, some victims were not provided with emergency medical assistance on time. But actions of the special forces team, the ability of the officers of the Alpha and Vympel to act even in the most difficult situation allowed to begin the withdrawal of hostages from the theater, when the shooting there had not yet finished.

“The hostages began to be taken out at the moment when there was still a battle in the office cpaces. Some of the terrorists tried to fight, dut they were already isolated, and after a few minutes they were neutralized” - former operative.

CSN members say that after this unique operation special forces teams in Europe tried to prepare for similar events. After the tragedy in Moscow, the command of special forces in Europe attempted to carry out similar training seizures of hostages. However during the assault time after time not only police, but army troops lost not only 80 percent of the personnel, but all the hostages. According to former FSB operatives, none of the special-purpose groups still has such experience and cannot work in such a complex situation without loss from both the members and the hostages.

Real video of terrorists at Nord-Ost

An interview with the CSN FSB unit member taken immediately after the assault of Nord-Ost

Documentary about Nord-Ost

 Interesting photos with numbers, each has its own description.

1. The main entrance to the Dubrovka theater center.

2,3. Members of MIA MVD VV internal troops and BTR-80 in a cordon in a wind and moisture-protect Slavyanka suits and armor helmets Maska-1 with glass visor

4. Members of MIA MVD VV internal troops in the cordon. Wearing insulated suits "ANA" and DPM kukla suit from "Slavyanka"

5,6. Members of MIA MVD VV internal troops in the cordon wearing armor vests MODUL in "melting snow" cover, armor vests MODUL in “barvikha” cover, KOLPAK shockproof helmets in "melting snow" cover and KOLPAK shockproof helmets in "barviha" cover.


7. The leader of the terrorists in the Dubrovka theater Movsar Barayev

8. Suicide bomber woman in the main hall

9. The leader of terrorists Movsar Barayev gives an interview to russian federal news media

10. Transfer of medical supplies to hostages

11.Asault and evacuation of hostages (you can see Chevrolet Van minibus at parking which was used by terrorist group). One of the CSN members wearing Altyn early type armor helmet with big radio box.


12. Evacuation of wounded hostages by the CSN FSB members and rescuers

13. Members of MIA MVD VV internal troops during assault phase (wearing Maska-1 bulletproof helmets and Vityaz-S bulletproof helmets

14,15,16. Dead suicide bomber women in the hall



17. Dead suicide bomber women on the stairs

18. Killed terrorist on the second floor near the bar. Take attention to Survival Corps SRVV tactical vest, which was also supplied to the CSN FSB at that time

19. Terrorists equipment, AKSU-74 with magazines, guns and ammo. Take attention to Survival Corps SRVV tactical vest which was also supplied to the CSN FSB at that time

20. Killed terrorist in the corridor of 2 floor, wearing respirator

21. Members of the CSN FSB on the second floor near the bar and near 2 killed terrorists including leader Movsar Barayev (fighters in background wearing american woodland suits produced by the “Survival Corps” - “SRVV”

22. Hand of the corpse of terrorist leader Movsar Barayev with an open bottle of “Hennessey” cognac. According to legend, a gift for him to the “last journey” from the CSN fighters

23. MIA MVD VV internal troops, Separate Operational Purpose Division or ODON, formerly called OMSDON (a.k.a. Dzerzhinsky Division) are pulling out the corpses of terrorists from the hall. Wearing SSSH-94 steel armor helmets and STSH-81 titanium armor helmets

24,25,26,27,28,29,30,31,32,33,34. Photo from the interview with CSN member which stormed the theater on Dubrovka taken one hour later after assault. We can look at all the gear in more detail from different angles. Armor helmet "Altyn" (another Altyn helmet), "Vyzov" armor vest, "Survival Corps" SRVV tactical vest in the colors of "Korean woodland" with attached 3 additional pouches on the backSuit in DPM "kukla" colors made by SSO from cotton, suit in DPM "kukla" colors made from rip-stop, suit in DPM " colors made by Slavyanka from cotton

35. Inspection and demining of suicide bomber woman by a member of the CSN FSB. He is wearing Fort Kiver bulletproof helmet without a cover in black and SRVV Survival Corps suit  

36. Photo of two members of CSN FSB (Danilin brothers) after the storming in the theater building (Yuri Danilin wearing an armor vest FORT "Redut", Anatony Danilin wearing "Vyzov" armor vest)

37. Members of CSN FSB in the foyer of the theater after the assault, you can see fabric AK pouches

38. Members of CSN and MIA MVD VV, wind moisture protected suits "Slavyanka", army boots with nails

39. The well-known photo of the soldiers of the TsSN FSB made immidiatelly after the assault. Wearing Scarpa Manta boots. One of the fighters wear armor vest "Strelets"This is actually this vest with broken pockets, see similar location of camouflage spots at photos.




40. Morning evacuation and cordon

44.Group photo of CSN FSB members after assault

Thank you for watching! Hope, it will help to all of collectors, reenactors and russian history lovers.

Depotmilitary team

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