2003 Photo Contest, Spot News, 3rd prize

Justin Sutcliffe

The Sunday Telegraph / Image Sans Frontière

26 October, 2002

A woman overwhelmed by gas is taken to hospital after the siege of the Palace of Culture theater. Fifty Chechen separatists including 18 women, had seized control of the theater during a performance. They held more than 600 Russian and foreign members of the audience hostage, demanding withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya. After three days of negotiations with the captors, and following the killing of two hostages, Russian troops stormed the building, having permeated it with a knock-out gas. All the rebels and at least 90 hostages died during the operation, and hundreds were hospitalized with breathing difficulties. Authorities refused to identify the gas, so doctors did not know what antidotes to administer and the death toll continued to rise.

About the photographer

Justin Sutcliffe

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