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Two Child Actors Among Jews Killed in Moscow Hostage Crisis

October 31, 2002
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Kristina Kurbatova was a leading child actor in the production of the musical “Nord-Ost.”

She enjoyed romantic music and was a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien. In fact, “The Lord of the Rings” was her favorite movie.

Last week, she called home from a cell phone hours after she was taken hostage by Chechen kidnappers along with some 800 other people at a Moscow theater. She told her parents she was very scared.

She had reason to be.

Kurbatova and Arseniy Kurilenko, another 13-year-old actor in “Nord-Ost,” died over the weekend when Russian security forces gassed the theater in an operation to rescue the hostages.

More than 115 hostages were killed — as were the 50 or so kidnappers — after the forces sprayed gas into the theater. Russian authorities this week identified the substance as fentanyl, an opiate-like gas.

The two children were among six Jewish hostages who died in the rescue operation, out of some 27 Jews that the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia identified among the hostages.

Another Jewish hostage, Misha Simkin, 12, is among dozens considered missing after the siege.

Anna Shifrina, 60, a Moscow pensioner, was laid to rest Wednesday in a Jewish cemetery in Malakhovka outside Moscow.

Yuriy Zhabotinsky, 48, a science professor, will be buried in the town of Rybinsk in northwestern Russia, where he taught at the Institute for Aviation Technologies.

A funeral for Igor Morev, 50, was slated to be held Thursday in Moscow. He was the father of three children.

The body of Grigoriy Burban, also 50, will be flown to the United States on Thursday at the request of his parents, who live in the United States. He will be buried in Brooklyn.

Burban lived in Odessa, Ukraine, and was visiting Moscow.

Burban’s wife, Elena, survived the siege. On Wednesday, she was waiting for Ukrainian officials to issue her a passport so she could accompany her husband’s body to the United States.

Relatives of some of the Jewish victims refused to be interviewed.

Some Jewish officials said they felt it was wrong to focus on Jews separately from the other victims.

“I don’t think this is the right thing to do,” said Dov Sharfstein, representative of the Jewish Agency for Israel in Moscow and Central Russia.

He said his group wrote a letter to Moscow officials offering the help of Russian-speaking Israeli psychologists who have experience dealing with terror victims.

“We offered our help to everyone because this was one common tragedy,” Sharfstein said.

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