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Putin Vows Not to Give Up Fight Against Terrorists - 2003-07-07

President Vladimir Putin says Russia will not yield to terrorism, two days after twin suicide bombings at a Moscow rock concert left 15 people dead, including the two female bombers. Mr. Putin addressed government security ministers in special session, and said that if Russia fails to stand up to terrorists the nation will face certain collapse.

In his first public comments since two suicide bombings Saturday in Moscow, President Putin said Russia would not give in to terrorism and would not be ruled by fear.

Giving in, Mr. Putin said, would lead to the collapse of the state and would only add to a rise in civilian casualties, as he put it, by the dozens, hundreds, and thousands.

There is still no claim of responsibility for the attack. But Russian security officials suspect Chechen separatist rebels are behind the blasts, carried out by two women who were wired with heavy explosives. Most of those injured suffered shrapnel wounds and nearly 40 people remain hospitalized.

President Putin has framed Russia's decades-old conflict with Chechnya as part of the wider, global war on terrorism. It was a theme he returned to again with government ministers at the Kremlin.

Mr. Putin said that after Saturday's violence it is clear to him that rebels based in Chechnya have become an integral part of the international terrorist web, perhaps its most dangerous part, he said.

Mr. Putin said all Chechen rebels must be dug out of hiding from their basements and caves and, in his words, destroyed.

Despite the president's strong comments, the capital city of roughly 10 million people is clearly on edge, with increased police presence at train stations, the metro, and large shopping malls. In the span of two hours, police responded to a bomb threat at a downtown McDonald's fast-food restaurant, as well as to a small explosion in southern Moscow.

Mayor Yuri Luzkhov has declared Tuesday a day of mourning in the Russian capital.