MOSCOW. — Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday threatened “terrorists” with total destruction after twin suicide strikes claimed 34 lives and raised alarm over security at the Sochi Winter Olympic Games. A bombing at the main railway station of the southern city of Volgograd killed 18 people on Sunday while a second strike that hit a trolleybus on Monday claimed 16 lives.
The blasts are Russia’s deadliest since a suicide raid on Moscow’s Domodedovo airport that was claimed by Islamic insurgents from the North Caucasus killed 37 people in January 2011.
The latest violence has laid bare the unchecked threat posed by insurgents, who have vowed to target civilians in a bid to undermine Putin’s preparations ahead of the Games’ opening ceremony on February 7.
“Dear friends, we bow our heads in front of the victims of the terrible acts of terror. I am sure we will toughly and consistently continue to fight against terrorists until their total destruction”, Putin said in his first public comments on the attacks.
Putin made the statement in a traditional midnight New Year’s address he recorded during an unannounced visit to Russia’s Far Eastern city of Khabarovsk that is seven hours ahead of Moscow.
Putin issued a string of directives on Monday ordering security stepped up at public transit points across the nation and extra police deployed on the streets of Volgograd.
More than 5,000 members of the security forces checked traffic and inspect public transport yesterday in Volgograd, which is 690 kilometres northeast of Sochi.
Russia’s Channel 1 television station led its news with images of helmeted paratroopers with automatic rifles bursting into a Volgograd cafe and checking documents of men said to have been from from the mostly-Muslim North Caucasus.
A local security agency spokesman told the station that officers had arrested 87 people “who resisted police or did not have (their identity) documents”. Russia is already preparing to impose a “limited access” security cordon around Sochi from January 7 that will check all traffic and ban all non-residents’ cars from a wide area around the city. — AFP.