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Vladimir Putin vows ‘total annihilation’ of terrorists after Volgograd bombings

December 31, 2013

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By Roland Oliphant, Volgograd

3:15PM GMT 31 Dec 2013

Vladimir Putin has vowed to pursue terrorists to their “total annihilation”,    in his first public comments since the Volgograd suicide bombings.

In his traditional New Year’s Eve address, which was broadcast at midnight   from the Far Eastern city of Khabarovsk, (5pm in Moscow), he praised   Russia’s unity in the face of both terrorism and natural disasters and   promised to continue an unrelenting fight against the bombers.

“In the past year we have faced problems and serious challenges including the   inhuman terror attacks in Volgograd and unprecedented disasters in the Far   East,” he said.

“Dear friends, we bow our heads in memory of the victims of these terrible   attacks. We will strongly and decisively continue the battle against   terrorists until their total annihilation,” he said.

Mr Putin earlier provoked a storm of condemnation on the Russian internet on   Sunday after the message broadcast an hour earlier in Kamchatka, Russia’s   most easterly timezone, made no mention of the attacks.

Mr Putin’s spokesman blamed a “technical glitch” that saw a pre-recorded   speech being broadcast at midnight in Kamchatka and Russia’s far eastern   islands (4pm in Moscow).

The second speech was quickly recorded at a reception for victims of   devastating floods that struck Khabarovsk and other Far Eastern cities   earlier this year.

His comments after Volgograd began to bury its dead and the death toll from   the two suicide blasts continued to rise.

Two more victims of Monday’s bus bombing and one victim of Sunday’s suicide   attack in the city’s main railway station died overnight, Russian   authorities said on Tuesday, bringing the total number of fatalities from   the attacks to 34. More than 100 people have been injured.

Russia looked for answers as fears of further attacks prompted alerts at other   transport hubs. Police briefly evacuated a bus station in Krasnodar, 350   miles south east of Volgograd, after a suspicious package was found there.   The station was reopened after a bomb squad search of the building showed up   no threat.

Some Volgograd commuters travelling to work on Monday morning continued to use   public transport, though the buses were conspicuously sparsely seated at   rush hour.

“I’m not afraid of anything. We cannot give in,” said Valentina Mikhailovna,   83, a pensioner at a bus-stop in the city centre.

The city has called off traditional New Year’s celebrations and declared a   period of mourning until January 3.

Traditional New Year’s celebrations were likely to go ahead under tightened   security elsewhere in the country, however.

“At the moment everything is going to plan,” Moscow’s regional security chief   told Interfax, when asked about Tuesday night’s celebrations. “Concrete   measures have been taken to tighten security in the capital, in both the   transportation departments and emergency services.”

Vladimir Putin, who traditionally addresses the nation on television at   midnight on New Year’s Eve, is expected to spend the evening at home.

Russian authorities have been scrambling to make sense of a series of attacks   that their intelligence services failed to predict.

The Investigative Committee, Russia’s equivalent of the FBI, said Monday’s   bombing was the work of a man whose remains were being tested in an attempt   to establish his identity. Meanwhile, reports in the Russian press, not   officially confirmed, named the man behind Sunday’s railway station blast as   Pavel Pechenkin, who lived in the republic of Mari El, 400 miles east of   Moscow and converted to Islam last year. Pechenkin’s father, Nikolai, has   already given a DNA sample to aid identification, the Komsomolskaya Pravda   newspaper reported.

Pechenkin, a former paramedic, was reported to have adopted the Muslim name   Ansar Ar-Rusi in the spring of 2012 and to have left home soon afterwards.   He told his parents he was going to stay with his younger brother in Moscow,   but they later learnt he had gone to Dagestan, the restive North Caucasus   republic at the heart of an Islamist insurgency.

Mari El, which previously has not been connected with the insurgency 1,000   miles away, has a population of 700,000, of whom just six per cent are   Muslims.

Russian media had initially reported that the station bomber was a 26-year-old   woman who had twice been married to insurgent fighters, each in turn killed   by special forces. But later the Investigative Committee said that the   suspect was a male of “Slavic” appearance who carried explosives in a   rucksack. Mr Putin summoned the heads of both the interior ministry and the   FSB, the domestic security service that succeeded the KGB, to the Kremlin   before sending Alexander Bortnikov, the FSB chief, to Volgograd to take   control of the investigation.

Mr Putin on Monday ordered security to be tightened across Russia and later   met Dmitry Medvedev, the prime minister, to discuss “all questions connected   with providing medical help, financial assistance and other forms of support   for the injured and families of those killed in the terror attacks in   Volgograd”. David Cameron offered British support to bring to justice the   perpetrators of what he called the “disgusting crime” as he wrote to Mr   Putin extending his condolences and promising help to prevent further   attacks.

The British Olympic Association’s chairman, Lord Coe, said the bombings were    “an unspeakable act of barbarity” but said he was satisfied that security at   the Winter Olympics – due to begin in the Russian resort of Sochi, 400 miles   from Volgograd, in February – would be “good”. Asked whether the GB team   could be kept away, he said: “Sport has, in the past, transcended all sorts   of difficulties. That is not to minimise what we have witnessed in the last   24 hours but … at this moment the teams are preparing and I fully expect to   take teams to the Winter Games.”

The US also offered its “full support” and called for “closer co-operation for   the safety of the athletes, spectators, and other participants” in the   Olympics.

The series of attacks is grimly reminiscent of the build-up to terrorist    “spectaculars” in the mid-2000s, including the Beslan School siege, in which   more than 300 people died, 180 of them children.

Then suicide bombers had blown up two airliners in mid-air a week before they   seized the school on Sept 1, 2004, in what security experts now describe as   an attempt to divert the security services’ attention ahead of the main   attack.

CREDIT TO:  Roland Oliphant / Thelegraph



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