First, I will admit that I didn't know anything about this man before this morning. I happened upon a headline and decided to read a bit more. This is the nature of my curiosity. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, I would have to say that Leonid Roshal (Леонид Михайлович Рошаль) sounds like an honorable man. But he has found himself in the middle of an angry and embittered situation in the trial in Vladikavkaz, with accusations flying that he mislead families or is covering up for the government.
For some background on Roshal, I'll refer what I presume is predominantly an English speaking audience to this Washington Post article from September 2004. He is a 71 year old pediatrician who found himself involved in hostage negotiations during the Moscow Theater crisis. It appears he was initially brought in to provide medical care and attempted negotiations. From there he seems to have enjoyed some celebrity, and has traveled and spoken a bit extensively. He seems a bit fond of referring to his old age (for a sympathetic reaction), both directly and indirectly - which is a bit amusing - but I digress.
Dr. Roshal was on the stand in Vladikavkaz yesterday ... and he feels it has become a political farce. This English language article doesn't really provide many details, beyond that statement. From other sources, it sounds closer to a lynch mob ... families desperate to find a source to blame for a great tragedy and how it was handled (or mishandled). While I give the Beslan families great credit for challenging authorities and "the powers that be" in how the crisis was handled, it seems they are a bit too ready to hang this on anyone involved. Based upon what little I could read and translate from Russian news sources, Dr. Roshal is accused of making the situation sound less desperate, saying the children could survive for up to eight days, citing cases of the Mexico City earthquake and victims buried in the rubble, etc. Dr. Roshal didn't have the benefit of examining the children hostages in Beslan, however ... so he is apparently being called negligent.
Such accusations would be very common here in the US for a trained physician ... it is one reason why we suffer from high medical costs, due to doctors very high insurance premiums. Doctors should be accountable for their actions and possible negligence, of course. But it appears Roshal was making a good faith effort in a chaotic situation.
For those who have not seen it already, I would recommend the documentary "Children of Beslan" which was shown on HBO last year. I believe it was also a joint production of the BBC and shown in the UK ... and possibly elsewhere. It is mostly just interviews with the children who survived the hostage crisis, in their words, with subtitles (no dubbing). I watched this with my own children, explaining to them what happened. No amount of explaining can give an answer to "why?" ... of course.
Lastly, I used to correspond and chat with a young Armenian woman from Vladikavkaz ... who was in fact a school teacher. I remember when I looked at the map of where she lived, I asked her about its proximity to Chechnya, and if they ever had any problems there, etc. I also knew of some of this business with Ossetia. She replied that is was quiet there, they never had any troubles and it was safe, etc.
Then this business in Beslan happened ... I wrote to her immediately and she seemed very surprised that I even knew what was going on. She had friends who were teachers, who were hostages ... at least one didn't survive. After this incident, her father forbid her to be a teacher and she started to work in the family store or shop. (Might sound strange to Americans, but women in their 20s often still live at home in Russia, and somewhat beholden to family wishes.) I also suspect that even she was troubled by her profession and her friends experiences in the wake of Beslan. Shortly thereafter, we stopped corresponding altogether, which is unfortunate.