The gas used in Moscow theater siege?

Apparently Russian forces used some sort of gas before raiding the theatre in Moscow to rescue the hostages. Most of the hostage takers died, and 67 of the hostages did as well.

I’ve read that some of the dead hostage takers were found sitting with their heads on their hands or with their heads thrown back, as if they were asleep. It doesn’t sound like they were shot. Also, they didn’t detonate their bomb belts. So I assume the gas is what did them in, and so I assume that the hostages who died were also mostly killed by the gas.

How would the Russians have known there would be a relatively low percentage of hostage deaths, and a high percentage of terrorist deaths? Surely the gas wasn’t designed only to work on the bad guys. What kind of gas was it?

Gas that works on people standing up (ie. lighter than air)?

Interesting. The English news sources I’ve found so far don’t mention it, but the media here are specifically reporting that many of the hostage takers were shot while knocked out by the gas.

All known anesthetics are considerably heavier than air.

Not much detail but NPR reported the gas was a psychotropic with effects similar to LSD that hade never been used before.

Took some brass cojones to do what they did.

Psychotropic? That’s near unbelievable. Reports in Western media outlets have stated that some of the hostages died from drowning in their own vomit as a result of the gas. Crazy stuff. Anyone know the name of the gas used?

Psychotropic gas?Could be BZ(an aerosol); though this has a delayed reaction after exposure.
Used by the US in Vietnam and more recently by the Serbs.

I suppose the authorities’ expectation would have been that whatever it was would render a high enough proportion of the total population inside the theatre not necessarily unconscious, but at least dazed and confused, so that those terrorists in a position to mount an effective resistance would be much fewer and thus more easily overwhelmed.

Big gamble, in a future situation the terrorists may be prepared to start the massacre as soon as more than two people start feeling queasy, even if it’s mere sleep deprivation…

What’s also strange is that the Russian special forces (Spetnez?) don’t appear to be wearing gas masks in any of the news pictures.

Might it have been just plain old Carbon Monoxcide? It’s heavier than air, of course. But it might be a little more subtle than “regular” chemical agents.

Experts: Valium Gas Used in Raid

I heard on NPR that at least some hostage takers were shot while they were unconscious, because it was considered too dangerous to disarm the explosives attached to them.

from the New York Times this morning:

So the issue is still in doubt, but his guy sounds pretty convincing. How would you go about making a gas out of Valium? Aerosolize it? Would that be effective?

"Only one of the 117 killed Moscow theatre hostages died from gunshot wounds, Russia’s chief medical officer says.

The vast majority of the deaths, 115, appear to have been caused by the mysterious sedative gas used to “neutralise” the 50 Chechen rebel hostage-takers before the raid by special forces early Saturday."


"The unidentified gas used by Russian security forces in their raid on a Moscow theater appears to have been an incapacitating agent that may fall into the gray area of international restrictions on chemical weapons, U.S. experts said yesterday.

Before storming the theater, where about 700 people were held hostage by Chechen militants, security forces pumped an odorless gas into the building’s ventilation system that put most of the hostages and their captors to sleep.

Russian officials have declined to identify the chemical used in the operation, describing it generically as a “sleeping gas” or “special gas.” "


The thing with BZ is that it is persistant on surfaces.
Also if the Russians had added Dimethylsulfoxide to it it would be absorbed through the skin much better: effects occuring upto 36 hours later.
Unless decontamination had been carried out, I guess the camera men and reporters are in for an odd few days if they got in contact with it !

Probably not Valium. Valium doesn’t kill people.
Probably not a hallucinogen. A hallucinogen couldn’t be relied upon to prevent the bomb wearers from detonating their bombs.
Must have been a fast acting nerve gas of which there are many.

Latest news on Google News is

The Russians are suggesting that it was simply a form of anethetic that is given to patients undergoing operations. But, of course, many people die while under anesthesia, for a variety of reasons.

Notice in the article, that

Sounds like everyone of the hostages is suffering from the effects of the gas.

Glad I didn’t have to make the decision on how to end the standoff.

An update:

CBS and ABC both report that all but one of the 117 dead hostages was killed by the gas. More than 150 hostages remain in critical condition.

In its on-air report, ABC reports that the Russian military continues to refuse to provide information on the gas to the medical personnel treating the hostages. And that virtually all the terrorists were shot while unconscious in chairs or on the floor. The justification given is that had any regained consciousness they, could have set off the explosive wrapped around their bodies in a matter of moments.

Could be FENTANYL a synthetic opiate many hundreds or thousands of times more potent that morphine: used as a painkiller and anaesthetic.
Disseminated as an aerosol they work fast, within 10 seconds to a minute or so.
BZ would seem to be too slow reacting.

Hospital anesthetics such as halothane and isoflurane are significantly heavier than air and IIRC highly flammable. Same goes with aerosols mixed with DMSO (in order to increase skin absorption). I can imagine that being highly flammable would make it a problem to use in an area with a high likelihood of explosions and gunfire.