Russian President Vladimir Putin called for increased security across the world’s largest country after a pair of suicide bombings killed more than 30 people as the nation prepares to host the Sochi Winter Olympics.
Authorities have detained more than 700 people as officers, including teams with search dogs, investigate the attacks on Dec. 29 and 30 in the southern city of Volgograd, according to a statement today on the regional police department’s website. More than 2,500 homes have been searched as part of the investigation, it said.
Russia will next month host the Winter Olympics in Sochi, a Black Sea resort near the violence-wracked North Caucasus region. The attacks highlight the challenge of security beyond the city itself, with transport hubs and bus routes becoming targets, according to Matthew Clements, a senior Russia analyst at IHS Global Insight in London.
“Significant casualties and psychological impact can be caused even if security measures prevent bombers from accessing train stations and other locations,” Campbell said by e-mail today.
Sochi lies to the west of the Caucasus Mountains, which stretch about 1,200 kilometers through one of the most economically distressed regions of the country across Chechnya to Dagestan on the Caspian Sea. Toward the east, Russian forces battle almost daily attacks by Muslim extremists after two separatist wars since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The government will seal off the city of 345,000 people and had planned to beef up security starting Jan. 7. The country is spending at least $48 billion to stage the Games, more than any other previous organizer.
Putin discussed with the interior minister and the head of the FSB security service “the measures you are taking to step up security on the entire territory of the Russian Federation in view of the events here in Volgograd,” the Russian leader said during a visit to the city yesterday, according to a Kremlin statement.
Volgograd police held funeral services today for Dmitry Makovkin, the officer authorities credited with stopping the suicide bomber at the train station’s security checkpoint and preventing a higher death toll, according to the regional law enforcement website.
The suicide bombers may have prepared the explosives in one of the regions of the North Caucasus before traveling to Volgograd, the Interfax news service said today, citing preliminary information from a law enforcement official it didn’t name.
Putin in his New Year’s Eve address called the attacks “inhuman” and pledged security and safety at the games, according to a transcript of the address on the Kremlin website.
“We will remain confident, tough and consistent in our fight to destroy the terrorists completely,” Putin said. “We shall support all the victims; we shall implement everything we planned; we will build and restore everything that needs to be built and restored.”
Russia’s Anti-terrorist Committee has claimed progress in its investigations, Interfax said today, citing the organization. No further details were given.
While Russian authorities are deploying 30,000 police officers and soldiers in and around Sochi, the Volgograd attacks emphasize the vulnerability of targets farther away from the host city. Over 3,500 police and investigators continue to investigate and maintain security in Volgograd, according to the regional police today.
The possible threats extend beyond Sochi, 700 kilometers (435 miles) southwest of Volgograd, and include the routes athletes, journalists and spectators will travel to reach the site. There are a limited number of air gateways to the city, which are mainly via Moscow.
The attack on Dec. 30 killed at least 16 people when a man detonated a bomb in a trolleybus during the morning rush hour in Volgograd, while the death toll from the rail-station blast rose to 18 people, RIA Novosti reported, citing the Health Ministry. More than 60 people remain hospitalized after the two acts, with five patients remaining in critical condition, the Interfax news service reported today.
The Investigative Committee, which oversees major criminal probes, said it’s treating the bombings as terrorist attacks that may be linked. Monday’s bomb had the explosive power of more than 4 kilograms (9 pounds) of TNT, according to a website statement.
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