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Putin Vows Retribution for Moscow Airport Bombing

  • James Brooke

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin chairs a Cabinet meeting in Moscow, 25 Jan 2011

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin chairs a Cabinet meeting in Moscow, 25 Jan 2011

Russia’s leaders are promising to crack down on terrorists, after a deadly bomb attack appeared to target foreigners Monday in a Moscow airport.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin vowed that "retribution is inevitable" for the suicide bombing that killed 35 people at Russia's busiest airport.

Prime Minister Putin’s trademark has long been a tough stance on terrorism. But this time, President Dmitry Medvedev joined the chorus, ordering internal security chiefs to "expose and bring the bandits who committed this crime to justice."

Mr. Medvedev, often criticized as mild-mannered, also demanded that "the nests of these bandits, however deep they have dug in, must be liquidated."

Although no group has claimed credit for the bombing, the attack bore the hallmarks of radical Islamic groups from the Russian’s southernmost region, the Northern Caucasus.

The Kremlin’s tough talk came as Russians realized the international dimensions of a bombing that took a total of 200 dead and wounded in the international arrivals section of their most modern airport. For the first time in memory, terrorists had targeted foreigners.

Filled with shrapnel, the bomb killed four Europeans and three Central Asians. Several Europeans were also among the 168 wounded.

Pavel Baev studies the Caucasus rebel movement from the International Peace Research Institute in Oslo, Norway.

"It has also guaranteed international resonance," said Baev. "International arrivals: every Muscovite with a bit of an international profile has been to that area. A lot of expats who are coming back and forth. Yes, each of them can reflect on that moment."

The attack occurred just before President Medvedev was to fly to Davos, Switzerland to give the keynote speech at the World Economic Forum. The bombing also takes place as Russia prepares to open its doors to a series of international sporting events, most notably the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Speaking to the security chief about the sports events, Russia’s president warned, "Those who would like to attend are not the only ones preparing for them. The criminals, the bandits, the terrorist rabble - they are preparing for them too."

Andrey Soldatov studies radical movements among Russia’s 20 million Muslims. He said radicals may be seeking a new way to pressure the Kremlin.

"Maybe to target foreigners because this might have to pressure the Kremlin from the outside," noted Soldatov.

Soldatov said that the daily killings in the North Caucasus go largely unreported in Russia’s Moscow-based media.

Baev said during the last decade the Kremlin’s counter-terror strategy has eliminated large groups of rebels. Now the insurgents operate in small cells that specialize in suicide bombings.

"Suddenly the strategy which was employed so successfully in itself becomes a source of the problem," added Baev. "Because the two main elements of that strategy were: channeling more federal funds and being more decisive in repressing. And repression creates new grievances and channeling of federal funds creates a lot of corruption and these two sort of grievances now come together and drive the new escalation."

With funerals beginning Wednesday, Moscow authorities have declared it a day of mourning.

Watch slideshow of photos taken at the Domodedovo airport



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