Volgograd attacks: Russia steps up security in advance of Winter Olympics
Second suicide bombing raises fears state won’t be able to guarantee safety
Russian authorities ordered tighter security at stations and other facilities across the country after a second suicide bomb in the city of Volgograd, formerly called Stalingrad, killed at least 14 people when it went off in a packed city trolleybus, blowing off the roof, demolishing the sides and shattering windows in a nearby building.
Coming one day after a bomb at the city’s railway station that killed 16 and wounded dozens more, the attack renewed fears about the ability of the Russian authorities to guarantee security for the Winter Olympics in the Black Sea port of Sochi in February. No organisation has claimed credit for the attacks but Russian authorities said they believed it was the work of the same group as Sunday’s bomb. Suspicion immediately focused on Doku Umarov, a Chechen warlord who now describes himself as the “Emir” of the North Caucasus “caliphate”.
In a video released in July, the Islamist announced that he was lifting his “moratorium” on attacks aimed at Russian civilians and intended specifically to target the Olympics in Sochi, which is close to the restive North Caucasus. Describing the Games as “satanic”, he said “They plan to hold the Olympics on the bones of our ancestors, on the territory of our land on the Black Sea.”
Volgograd, which was hit by a suicide bomb attack in October, is the closest Russian city to the region. Today there was speculation the city had been targeted because security precautions in both Sochi and Moscow are already so tight as to make them virtually impenetrable to terrorist attack.
President Putin summoned officials to report on the attacks and sent the head of the Federal Security Service to Volgograd to lead the investigation there. But he has yet to make any comment about them, and seemed intent on treating the attacks as phlegmatically as possible. In the same spirit Alexander Zhukov, chief of the Russian Olympic Committee, said there was no need to take any extra security precautions in Sochi following the attacks because “everything necessary already has been done”.