An enormous head of steam has built up behind the view that President Putin is somehow the main culprit in the grisly events in North Ossetia. Soundbites and headlines such as “Grief turns to anger”, “Harsh words for government”, and “Criticism mounting against Putin” have abounded, while TV and radio correspondents in Beslan have been pressed on air to say that the people there blame Moscow as much as the terrorists. There have been numerous editorials encouraging us to understand – to quote the Sunday Times – the “underlying causes” of Chechen terrorism (usually Russian authoritarianism), while the widespread use of the word “rebels” to describe people who shoot children shows a surprising indulgence in the face of extreme brutality.
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