'How could Russia invite Hamas?' [pg. 3]

Families of Dolphinarium victims bemoan Putin decision.

Geopolitics aside, Irina Sklianik thought the ghosts of dead children would have been enough to keep Russia from inviting a terror organization to visit. "Russia suffers from terror attacks. After what happened in Beslan, after children were killed in that terror attack, I don't understand how Russia can invite Hamas," she said. "It seems like they don't care about anyone." But Sklianik does care. Her 15-year-old daughter Yael (Yulia) was killed by Hamas five years ago in the suicide bombing of the Dolphinarium nightclub in Tel Aviv. Most of the 22 young victims of the Dolphinarium attack came from the former Soviet Union. Their families and those of the 90-plus people wounded in the bombing are watching as their former government extends a hand to the group behind the tragedy that ripped apart their lives. It gives Sklianik a new reason for grief. "We're very angry," she said of the invitation to Hamas. "There aren't words to describe it." Vladislav Agorienka, though, has one word for it: "Mistake." Agorienka's son was wounded in the Dolphinarium bombing. Hamas, he declared, "is a terror organization. You don't talk to a terror organization." But Russian President Vladimir Putin did exactly that earlier this month, when he offered to host the recent winners in the Palestinian election. The trip is scheduled for the beginning of March, ostensibly to reaffirm the demands of the Quartet - a diplomatic grouping consisting of the US, EU and UN as well as Russia - that Hamas renounce violence, recognize Israel and abide by former agreements between the Palestinians and Israel. Agorienka dismissed that rationale, saying that Putin wouldn't be able to influence the Islamic organization and shouldn't even try. Agorienka made a distinction, however, between the Kremlin and his homeland, which he left 11 years ago. "It's Putin and his staff. It's not Russia," he stressed. Sklianik agreed: "It's not the people. It's the government." Dolphinarium victim Katia Pelin, however, said the invitation only reaffirmed the general attitude in Russia towards Israel. "We always knew that they weren't on our side," she said.