the State Ball-Bearing Factory, located at 7 Melnikov Street. At 9:35 p.m., after the reports were checked and verified, an alarm went out to special services personnel. Information on the seizure of the hostages was relayed to the president of the Russian Federation, the heads of federal ministries and agencies, and the Moscow city authorities.
In order to handle the situation and coordinate efforts to free the hostages, an operational headquarters was established, including representatives of the FSB, the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD), the Ministry of Emergency Situations, the Ministry of Defense, city administrative and management agencies, the Committee on Health Protection, and other specialists in rendering urgent aid in extreme situations.
On orders from the operational headquarters, heightened security was put in place around official government buildings and critically important elements of the city’s infrastructure. Law enforcement units, special operational response detachments, personnel from the Ministry of Emergency Situations, and emergency medical and fire brigades were deployed in the area of the tragedy. The area was surrounded by police forces and MVD troops.
In accordance with plans that had been developed, forces from specialized detachments in the area deployed a mobile command center. A round-the-clock communications channel was established to exchange information with representatives of law enforcement agencies and special services of foreign states accredited in Moscow, which had provided detailed information on their countries’ citizens who were among the hostages as well as offers of practical and technical assistance. Regularly scheduled briefings were organized for these partners.
Working under severe time constraints, the operational headquarters had to take many varied aspects of the situation into account. Thus, as new information was coming in about the circumstances surrounding the hostage taking and the situation inside the building, efforts were simultaneously under way to prepare action plans for various scenarios under which events could develop.
Already on October 23, the operational headquarters was informed of the existence of a facility identical to the Cultural Center of the Ball-Bearing Plant (the Meridian movie theater), and special assault units of the FSB Special Operations Center (SOC) began training exercises there. As a result of these exercises, on October 25, commanders of the operations units of the SOC outlined an overall concept for the military/law enforcement component of a possible special operation, developed various options for storming the building, and coordinated the details of cooperation with the various groups involved. They then informed the operational headquarters that they were standing ready to conduct the operation.
Meanwhile, the operational headquarters was also taking measures aimed at freeing the hostages by other means. International experience in conducting such operations has shown that although storming a building is, as a rule, extremely