December 30, 2013

Russia bombings kill 31, raise concern on Olympics

The attacks in Volgograd reflect the Kremlin’s inability to uproot Islamist insurgents who have vowed to derail the games.

By Vladimir Isachenkov
The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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A demolition expert clad in a special gear walks along a wreckage of a trolleybus in Volgograd, Russia on Monday. A bomb blast tore through the trolleybus in Volgograd on Monday morning, a day after a suicide bombing that killed at least 17 at the city’s main railway station.

The Associated Press

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Police officers detain people who gathered for an unsanctioned event in downtown Volgograd, Russia, on Monday. Volgograd is about 400 miles northeast of Sochi, where the Olympics are to be held.

The Associated Press

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Anyone wanting to attend the games will have to buy a ticket online from the organizers and obtain a “spectator pass” for access. Doing so will require providing passport details that allow authorities to screen all visitors.

The security zone created around Sochi stretches approximately 100 kilometers (60 miles) along the Black Sea coast and up to 40 kilometers (25 miles) inland. Russian forces including special troops will patrol the forested mountains flanking the resort and use drones to keep a constant watch over Olympic facilities. Speedboats will patrol the coast and sophisticated sonar will be used to detect submarines.

Cars from outside the Olympic zone will be banned beginning a month before the Winter Games, and Sochi residents are already facing widespread identity checks.

The White House said the U.S. would welcome “closer cooperation” with Russia on security preparations for the safety of athletes, spectators and other participants at the Olympics following the two attacks.

“The U.S. government has offered our full support to the Russian government in security preparations for the Sochi Olympic Games,” White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said.

Some observers have warned that terrorists may simply choose softer targets in the vicinity of Sochi to sow panic.

“Even if they succeed in protecting Sochi, there could be a series of major attacks near Sochi,” Anatoly Yermolin, a veteran KGB officer, told Ekho Moskvy radio.

Alexei Filatov, another veteran of the Russian security forces, also predicted that terrorists will try to step up their attacks before the Olympics.

“The terrorist activities will increase as the Sochi Olympics get closer, and they will get increasingly close to the area,” Filatov wrote on his blog. “For those who order terror attacks, it serves as an opportunity to deal a blow to Russia on global stage.”

Some Russian commentators also have suggested that terrorists could have planted sleeper agents in Sochi long before security was tightened. Others indicated that terror groups could have rigged some Olympic facilities with explosives during construction. Russian officials have denied that could happen, citing stringent security controls at Olympic construction sites.

Russian Olympic Committee chief Alexander Zhukov insisted Monday that there was no need to take any extra steps to secure Sochi in the wake of the Volgograd bombings because “everything necessary already has been done.”

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach offered his condolences Monday in a letter to Putin and expressed full confidence that Russia would deliver “safe and secure games in Sochi.”

At the United Nations, the Security Council condemned the attacks as “heinous and cowardly acts,” and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke to Putin by telephone, offering his condolences and stressing the importance of international cooperation to fight terrorism, according to the U.N. press office.

Russian authorities ordered police to increase security at train stations and other transportation facilities across the country. The heightened security comes as Russians are preparing to celebrate the New Year, the nation’s main holiday.

In St. Petersburg, Russia’s second-largest city, the local governor canceled a New Year’s fireworks show.

Vladimir Markin, the spokesman for Russia’s main investigative agency, the Investigative Committee, said Monday’s explosion involved a bomb similar to the one used Sunday, indicating that the two attacks were linked.

Markin said a suicide attacker was responsible for Monday’s bus explosion that killed at least 14 people. It was not clear if authorities counted the bomber in their death toll.

In October, a suicide bombing on a bus in Volgograd killed six people.

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Military vehicles surround a wreckage of a trolleybus, in Volgograd, Russia, Monday.

The Associated Press

  


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