A Russian cult leader who promised to resurrect children who died in the 2004 Beslan school hostage crisis was detained yesterday on suspicion of fraudulently obtaining money from people who trusted he could help them, Moscow prosecutors said.
An investigation was opened into Grigory Grabovoi, a self-proclaimed healer who claimed he could cure cancer and AIDS as well as bring people back to life, after parents of those who died in the school massacre in the small southern Russian town demanded an inquiry.
Mothers of several children who died in the Beslan attack attended a meeting of Grabovoi’s followers in September 2005, when he pledged to resurrect victims by the following month.
A total of 331 people died during the three-day ordeal at Beslan’s School No 1, 186 of them children, after heavily-armed militants took more than 1,100 hostages.
Meetings with Grabovoi cost 1,000 rubles (?21) per person for a group meeting and up to 40,000 rubles (?830) for an individual interview, according to some Russian media reports.
The Interfax news agency quoted a Moscow prosecutor as saying a criminal case was launched against Grabovoi after a complaint from deceived parents of the Beslan victims.
The cult leader and his followers are said to have operated a widespread network in Russia that organised seminars which attracted up to 500 fee-paying people at a time.
Police detained Grabovoi at a Moscow hotel, where he was meeting some of his cult members.
The cult leader’s activities provoked a split among the Beslan mothers who had been campaigning against an alleged cover-up of the events surrounding the school siege and its bloody aftermath, which they believe happened because of officials’ negligence.
The leader of the Beslan Mothers’ Committee, Susanna Dudiyeva, who lost her 13-year-old son Zaur in the siege, appeared on stage next to Grabovoi at the Cosmos Hotel last September saying she believed in the power of resurrection in footage shown on national television.
Other mothers alleged the authorities had deliberately drawn some of them to the cult in an effort to discredit their persistent efforts to shed light on the tragedy, which had become an embarrassment for president Vladimir Putin.