Here's the latest speculation from a better-informed source than I
(Jane's Defence Weekly), on what gas was used to knock out the Chechen
terrorists, but which, alas, overdid it and caused extensive collateral
damage. I thought Putin looked strained and sincere when he asked the
Russian people, "please forgive us":

As Russians remain quiet, certain candidates emerge as the gas used to
break Moscow  hostage crisis
By John Eldridge, Editor, Jane's Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Defence

The Russians remain reluctant to identify the gas that was used at dawn
on 26 October to overcome around 50 Chechen rebels who had taken several
hundred people hostage in a Moscow theatre on 23 October.

This has presented an enduring challenge to the medical services at
Moscow hospitals in providing the right type of care. It is not clear
from the reports emerging from Moscow whether the hostage casualty and
death toll discrepancies (from ‘some 75’ originally announced by a
Russian minister to over 108 at 21.00hrs on 27 October) are due to the
after-effects of the gas, to trauma injury or simply due to early
miscounting in the aftermath.

In order to achieve surprise, the Russian special forces would have
needed three features of a chemical agent (a ‘gas’). The first two would
be vital; the third highly desirable. The agent would need to be
extremely quick-acting and invisible; otherwise some of the terrorists
would have been able to see it, avoid it and detonate their explosives.
Also, injury caused to the hostages would need to be temporary if the
authorities were not to be accused of taking unnecessary risks.

Assuming a considered reaction to the crisis, there are two
possibilities. Firstly, the agent used may have been something
completely new or a new combination of existing agents. This would be
one explanation for the PR clamp-down and its identity would be unlikely
ever to be revealed. Only the long-term victim effects would identify it
over time. Secondly, the agent used could be something old but
effective, such as a riot-control agent.

However, there are older types of agent that have in the past been used
both for riot control and for training but are now no longer used
because of their toxicity. Included among these is Adamasite (agent DM).
It is very quick acting and causes intense flu-like symptoms in the
victim and, at high concentrations, severe respiratory distress, nausea
and vomiting. In other words, most of those affected with high
concentrations would have been removed by stretcher. The symptoms are
likely to disappear within an hour or so, according to most sources, but
in susceptible victims the effects may be more severe, requiring
hospitalisation.

Adamasite is thus a likely candidate for the mystery ‘sleeping gas’,
although the hostage death toll from the event is
unusually high. Even though DM is lethal in extremely high
concentrations, a huge quantity would have been required to deliver this
level of death and injury.

However, it is by no means impossible that sarin or another nerve agent
was used alone or in combination with other types of agent. The two-fold
imperative of achieving complete surprise and instant incapacitation
would have been the top Russian priority. A nerve agent constituent to
the ‘sleeping gas’ may have been the reluctant choice to achieve this
aim.

<non-subscriber excerpt from the entire article; alas, I cannot afford
the £600 annual subscription to Defence Weekly!>

--
Marc A. Schindler
Spruce Grove, Alberta, Canada -- Gateway to the Boreal Parkland

“We do not think that there is an incompatibility between words and
deeds; the worst thing is to rush into action before the consequences
have been properly debated…To think of the future and wait was merely
another way of saying one was a coward; any idea of moderation was just
an attempt to disguise one’s unmanly character; ability to understand a
question from all sides meant that one was totally unfitted for action.”
– Pericles about his fellow-Athenians, as quoted by Thucydides in “The
Peloponessian Wars”

Note: This communication represents the informal personal views of the
author solely; its contents do not necessarily reflect those of the
author’s employer, nor those of any organization with which the author
may be associated.

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