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Putin visits Volgograd

January 1, 2014

Russian President Vladimir Putin has called the twin suicide bombings in Volgograd an "abomination" on an early morning visit to the city. Investigators say that the makeup of the bombs suggests the attacks were linked.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin (C) shakes hands with a man injured by one of two recent bombing at a local hospital in Volgograd January 1, 2014. (Photo via REUTERS/Alexei Nikolskiy/RIA Novosti/Kremlin)
Image: Reuters

Putin in Volgograd

Vladimir Putin met with security officials, laid a commemorative wreath at the site of the second bombing, and spoke to residents of Volgograd on Wednesday in an early morning visit.

"The abomination of the crime that was committed here in Volgograd needs no extra commentary," Putin said on his unannounced trip to the industrial city on the river Volga in southwestern Russia. "Whatever motivated the criminals' actions, there is no justification for crimes committed against civilians, especially against women and children."

A railway station suicide bombing on Sunday claimed 18 lives, while a second attack on a trolleybus on Monday killed 16 people.

Putin also visited some of the 65 victims who are still in hospital, and laid a bunch of red roses at the site of the trolleybus bombing, where many public tributes to the victims have been placed.

The Russian president said that during his visit he would meet with the head of the Federal Security Service and the Interior Ministry, asking for details on measures being taken to raise security in the country. On Tuesday, he said in his New Year's address that Russia would "annihilate" terrorists still at large in the country.

Volgograd, a city with a population of around 1 million, sandwiched between Russia's borders with Kazakhstan and Ukraine, is currently subject to heightened security. Police and paramilitary reinforcements were flown in as a response to the attacks, public New Year's celebrations were put on hold and cinemas are currently closed.

Explosives point to linked attacks

A spokesman for Russia's Investigative Committee, an organization that's roughly equivalent to the FBI in the US, said investigators were increasingly certain that the twin bombings were coordinated.

Vladimir Markin said that the identical makeup of the explosives used in both attacks, "confirms the theory that the two attacks are linked. It is possible that [the bombs] were prepared in the same place."

Nobody has claimed responsibility for the attacks, which came less than two months ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi - some 690 kilometers (429 miles) southwest of Volgograd. Doku Umarov, the leader of a North Caucasus guerilla group, in July threatened that his fighters would use "any means possible" to upset the staging of the Sochi Games.

Umarov is wanted, among other charges, in connection with the January 2011 attack on Moscow's Domodedovo airport that killed 37 people.

Putin said that during his security briefing in Volgograd on Wednesday, he would ask his two security chiefs "about the measures they were taking to improve security across the entire territory of the Russian Federation."

msh/jlw (AFP, AP, Reuters)