Russia's health minister says the gas used to end the hostage crisis at a Moscow theater was based on Fentanyl -- a narcotic often used as anesthesia.
Yuri Shevchenko said (Wednesday) that Russian special forces used the gas in a bid to knock out the Chechen guerillas who held more than 700 people hostage for three days.
Until now, Russian officials have refused to identify the gas, which killed at least 117 hostages. Some 600 hostages were freed after special forces raided the theater and killed the Chechens.
Mr. Shevchenko says no banned chemicals were used in the raid. The health minister says Fentanyl gas is not lethal by itself. But he said that the hostages, weakened by lack of food, water and oxygen, were less able to stand the powerful effects of the gas.
Russia had been under increasing international pressure to reveal what type of gas was used in the special forces raid, which ended the crisis Saturday.
Meanwhile, Russia has asked Denmark to extradite a Chechen envoy arrested in Copenhagen. Russia says Chechen official Ahmed Zakayev was involved in the theater attack.
Danish police detained him early today (Wednesday) in Copenhagen, where he was attending a world congress of the Chechen people. A Danish court has ordered him held until November 12th.
Earlier today, the Danish Ambassador to Russia (Lars Vissing) said Mr. Zakayev cannot be extradited because Russia and Denmark do not have an extradition treaty and Russia has not formally abolished capital punishment. However, Russia's Justice Ministry says that a moratorium on the death penalty has been in effect for six years.
Meanwhile, Russia's upper house of parliament has opened debate on increased spending for counter-terrorism measures.
Lawmakers in the Federation Council are considering a motion to raise spending using a 200 million dollar (7 billion rubles) reserve in next year's budget to counter terrorist threats and strengthen national security. The council also is expected to discuss other measures to prevent terrorist attacks.