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Mike Hanna: Russia won't reveal gas used in rescue

CNN's Mike Hanna
CNN's Mike Hanna

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MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) -- The vast majority of deaths in a hostage standoff at a Moscow theater appear to have been caused by a sedative gas used to subdue the hostage takers, Russia's chief medical examiner said Sunday.

Of the 117 hostages who died, 115 apparently died from the gas, and more than 600 people who survived the ordeal remain hospitalized, the medical examiner said. Russian officials said the gas was used to "neutralize" the Chechen rebels who seized the theater.

CNN Correspondent Mike Hanna spoke Sunday with CNN Anchor Heidi Collins about the latest developments.

HANNA: More details are emerging about the Russian special forces operation that ended a siege of a Moscow theater where Chechen separatists were holding hundreds of people hostage.

We do know now that a gas was used to subdue the Chechen separatists who were holding the hostages, Chechen separatists who were armed with explosives that they threatened to detonate if Russian forces stormed the building.

But we've also heard within the last few hours of the results of this gas or chemical agent that was used with the intention of saving the hostages -- that many of the hostages have died as a result of complications arising from gas poisoning.

More than 600 people are still in hospitals receiving treatment. Of these, 200 people are in intensive care. Forty-five are said to be in critical condition.

And the most disturbing figure -- all but two of those who died in the operation or before the operation died as a result of complications arising out of the use of gas.

These [are] very disturbing figures -- the very agent used as a tactic to save the lives of the hostages actually led directly to the deaths of well over 100 of them.

COLLINS: Any idea exactly what this substance was? Has it been used before in situations even remotely similar to this? Are they talking about that at all or trying to get to the bottom of it?

HANNA: The Russian government is refusing to divulge any details as to the chemical agent it used. Foreign embassies have asked for details of whatever substance it was to treat some of their nationals who have been affected.

Russian doctors have been angered that they do not know what it is -- but [there are] no details whatsoever as to what this agent was.

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