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POLITICS

Gay Club Complains of Looting




A photo supplied by Central Station founder Abaturov of the scene that greeted his eyes when he was finally let into the club.

Gay club Central Station was looted to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars in the aftermath of the hostage crisis, the club's founder Ilya Abaturov said Monday.

The club is in the same building as the Dubrovka theater, where hundreds of people were taken hostage by armed Chechens during a performance of "Nord Ost" on Oct. 23.

Special security forces took control of the club during the siege and used it to enter the adjoining theater in a dawn raid Oct. 26.

After the theater was stormed, large quantities of alcohol and the sound system were stolen from the club, Abaturov said. Homophobic graffiti -- "golubiye tvary" or "wretched faggots" -- was scrawled on the wall.

"We lost a lot of stuff," Abaturov said in a telephone interview. "The cash machines were broken. ... There was a broken safe, and some money was gone."

While only about $1,500 was stolen, a large amount of whisky and cognac was also taken, he said. The most expensive item to go missing was a new sound system, which was worth thousands of dollars. Some furniture was also broken.

"It's a large financial blow," Abaturov said.

He said the damage probably was not done by the special forces but by those who took control of the club for more than a week afterward afterward. During that time, the club was cordoned off and accessible only to builders and police. "We can't know exactly who did it," Abaturov said.

Abaturov is not the first person to complain of looting following the hostage drama.

Three construction workers were arrested earlier this month on suspicion of stealing belongings abandoned by hostages at the theater.

Abaturov said he saw television footage that showed builders removing what looked like the club's stereo system, but he suspects the police were also to blame.

He said he does not expect to be compensated for the damage done by special forces during their raid on the theater -- a hole was knocked in one of the clubs' walls so the troops could access the theater. The club has already been renovated at its own expense.

"We're not talking about compensation, we're talking about theft," he said.

Apart from the material loss, Abaturov said the club is under pressure from the local administration to close down. "It's homophobia," Abaturov said, pointing out that in New York a number of gay clubs damaged in the attack on the World Trade Center received help reopening.

The local administration refused to comment Monday.

The club was closed on the night the hostage-takers seized the building.

As a sign of respect for the hostages who died in the siege, the club will not open until the 40 days of mourning are over.

Police and prosecutors would not comment on Central Station's complaints Monday.

By Kevin O'Flynn
Staff Writer
For The Moscow Times

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