2nd bombing in Russia raises Olympic fears
An ambulance leaves the site of a trolleybus explosion in Volgograd, Russia, Monday. The explosion left 10 people dead Monday, a day after a suicide bombing that killed at least 17 at the city's main railway. The explosions put the city on edge and highlighted the terrorist threat that Russia is facing as it prepares to host the Winter Games in February. Volgograd is about 400 miles northeast of Sochi, where the Olympics are to be held. AP Photo
MOSCOW — Cossack units and Interior Ministry troops patrolled the streets of Volgograd alongside local police Monday and the head of the Russian Olympic Committee vowed that all would be done to assure security at the coming Winter Olympics about 400 miles away following a pair of bombings that killed at least 31 people in the southern Russia city.
A police officer said that the extraordinary measures were taken because a significant police contingent from the city had deployed to the Sochi region to reinforce security ahead of the Olympics, which will be held there next month.
Alexander Zhukov, head of the Russian Olympic Committee, said in televised remarks Monday that all necessary security measures have been taken to provide safety at the Games.
Russian President Vladimir Putin dispatched Alexander Bortnikov, chief of the Federal Security Service, to oversee the investigation in Volgograd. “I think we will be able to solve these crimes, given that we have certain clues,” Bortnikov told the Itar-Tass news agency.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks. Volgograd is close to the troubled Caucasus region, where Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov has vowed to use “maximum force” to prevent Russia from staging the Olympics, calling them “satanic games held on the bones of our ancestors.”
On Monday afternoon, some Volgograd residents gathered downtown to demand tougher controls on migrant workers and visitors from the troubled North Caucasus region.
“Over 200 people showed up for the rally, but police were there on the spot and immediately detained about 20 of the most active protesters,” Olga Makarycheva, a 54-year-old state employee who witnessed the scene, told the Times by telephone. “People in town are depressed. They don’t feel protected, and the curious sight of Cossacks patrolling the streets now is far from sufficient to restore their shattered feeling of safety.”
Dozens of army veterans joined police in ad hoc street patrols.
“We are looking into every yard, every shop, every park,” Viktor Neizvestny-Ravin, a 53-year-old Afghan war veteran, told the Times. “It should have been done earlier as it could have saved lives. As the police of the entire country now are protecting Sochi, we could be very handy helping protect our people in Volgograd.”
At least 14 people were killed and 28 injured Monday in the second suspected suicide bombing in less than 19 hours. Ten passengers were killed instantly when a bomb exploded Monday morning on a crowded trolley bus, and four more died on the way to and in hospitals, officials said.
Russian law enforcement agencies said the explosion was a terrorist attack and that they suspected a connection with a suicide bombing Sunday at Volgograd’s main railway station.
The death toll from Sunday’s attack was raised to 17, including the bomber, when a victim died overnight at a hospital, officials said. Vladimir Markin, spokesman for the Russian Investigative Committee, told reporters that the explosive device used Monday was believed to have been detonated by a male suicide bomber, whose body fragments were recovered and sent for genetic testing.
“The fact that the damage-causing elements in both explosive devices are identical proves the investigation’s theory of interconnection between the two terrorist acts,” Markin said. “It is possible that (both bombs) could have been prepared in the same place.”
A search of the scene uncovered a finger with a hand grenade clip attached to it, which was found to belong to a Russian national identified as Pavel Pechenkin, a law enforcement source told the Interfax news agency.