Medvedev orders special security at Russia transport hubs

Dmitry Medvedev ordered a special security regime across the country`s transport hubs.

Last Updated: Jan 24, 2011, 21:39 PM IST

Moscow: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Monday ordered a special security regime across the country`s transport hubs following a Moscow airport blast that killed at least 31 people.

"A blast went off at Domodedovo that, according to preliminary information, was an act of terror," Medvedev said in remarks that were televised after a blast tore through Moscow`s busiest airport.

"It is necessary to introduce a special regime in all airports and transportation hubs," Medvedev told an emergency meeting of top transportation officials.

The Russian president said the security measures would be imposed in cooperation with the country`s Federal Security Service (FSB), Russia`s main successor to the Soviet-era KGB.

Security sources said the blast, which also injured more than 130 people, some of them seriously, was probably set off by a suicide bomber from the country`s turbulent North Caucasus region.

In his first remarks on the blast, Medvedev said the incident showed that Russia`s security laws were not being followed in full.

"What happened indicates that far from all the laws that need to be working are being used correctly," said Medvedev.

He also instructed his government to provide emergency assistance to those who suffered in the blast.

Bureau Report

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Monday`s bombing, but it bore hallmarks of militants fighting for an Islamist state in the North Caucasus region on Russia`s southern frontier.

"It`s obviously a terrorist act that was planned well in advance in order to cause the deaths of as many people as possible," Medvedev said.

The blast ripped through the international arrivals area where travellers emerge after collecting their bags, causing carnage and filling the hall with smoke.

As at many other airports worldwide, there are usually few, if any, security barriers to people entering the arrivals area at Domodedovo and other Moscow airports.

But Medvedev said the management of Domodedovo should answer for the attack. He said security rules had been strengthened after bombers blew up two planes that took off from the same airport in 2004, killing 90 people.

An Emergencies Ministry list of the dead in Monday`s attack included eight foreigners: two Britons, a German and citizens of Bulgaria, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine. The British Foreign Office said one Briton was confirmed dead.

Russian government critics say tough rhetoric and tightened security will do little to stop attacks by militants in an insurgency they say is aggravated by heavy-handed law enforcement in the North Caucasus.

North Caucasus rebels have threatened attacks against cities and economic targets in the run-up to parliamentary elections this year and a 2012 poll in which Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is widely expected to return to the presidency or back his protégé Medvedev.

The choice of Domodedovo international arrivals area suggested the attackers wanted to make an impact beyond Russia. The country is to host the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, on the edge of the North Caucasus, and the 2018 soccer World Cup.

An investigator cited by news agency Itar-Tass said the attack was apparently carried out by a heavily built man aged 30 to 40. Other reports have given conflicting information, with some pointing to a female suicide bomber or two attackers.

Domodedovo Airport said it was not responsible for the blast. "We fully met all the requirements in the sphere of air transport security for which we are responsible," spokeswoman Yelena Galanova said in televised comments.

Medvedev delayed his departure to Davos, where he is to court foreign investment in Russia in his opening keynote speech at the World Economic Forum on Wednesday.

Analysts said the attack could hamper Kremlin efforts to reform Russia`s energy-reliant economy.

"The heightened threat to national security distracts top officials` attention from other pressing issues, such as formulating the economic policy agenda for the next political cycle," Moscow investment bank VTB Capital said in a note.

"It might also affect calculations for the 2011-12 election campaign," the note read.

Putin, the dominant partner in Russia`s `tandem` leadership, built his tough reputation by launching a war in late 1999 to crush a rebel government in Chechnya, a North Caucasus province.

That campaign achieved its immediate aim but insurgency has spread to neighboring Ingushetia and Dagestan and spawned persistent attacks beyond the North Caucasus, despite Kremlin vows to crush insurgents and nurture the region with subsidies.

Last March, two female suicide attackers from Dagestan killed 40 rush-hour commuters in Moscow`s metro.

Further attacks could increase pressure from hardliners on Putin to return to the presidency next year.

The spread of violence from the North Caucasus, where it is fed by a cocktail of corruption, poverty and clan rivalries as well as religious radicalism, fans Russian nationalist militancy in the heartland.

Tensions between ethnic Russians and the 20 million Muslims who make up one-seventh of Russia`s population flared dramatically last month. Russian nationalists attacked passersby of non-Slavic appearance -- many of them from the North Caucasus -- in central Moscow, just steps from the Kremlin.

On Tuesday police officers boosted their presence around railroad stations and airports, carrying out spot checks of people who looked as though they could be from the Caucasus.

The worst attack carried out by North Caucasus insurgents took place in 2004 when militants seized control of a school in the town of Beslan. When Russian troops stormed the building in an attempt to end a siege, 331 hostages, more than half of them children, were killed.

Bureau Report

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Monday`s bombing, but it bore hallmarks of militants fighting for an Islamist state in the North Caucasus region on Russia`s southern frontier.

"It`s obviously a terrorist act that was planned well in advance in order to cause the deaths of as many people as possible," Medvedev said.

The blast ripped through the international arrivals area where travellers emerge after collecting their bags, causing carnage and filling the hall with smoke.

As at many other airports worldwide, there are usually few, if any, security barriers to people entering the arrivals area at Domodedovo and other Moscow airports.

But Medvedev said the management of Domodedovo should answer for the attack. He said security rules had been strengthened after bombers blew up two planes that took off from the same airport in 2004, killing 90 people.

An Emergencies Ministry list of the dead in Monday`s attack included eight foreigners: two Britons, a German and citizens of Bulgaria, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine. The British Foreign Office said one Briton was confirmed dead.

Russian government critics say tough rhetoric and tightened security will do little to stop attacks by militants in an insurgency they say is aggravated by heavy-handed law enforcement in the North Caucasus.

North Caucasus rebels have threatened attacks against cities and economic targets in the run-up to parliamentary elections this year and a 2012 poll in which Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is widely expected to return to the presidency or back his protégé Medvedev.

The choice of Domodedovo international arrivals area suggested the attackers wanted to make an impact beyond Russia. The country is to host the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, on the edge of the North Caucasus, and the 2018 soccer World Cup.

An investigator cited by news agency Itar-Tass said the attack was apparently carried out by a heavily built man aged 30 to 40. Other reports have given conflicting information, with some pointing to a female suicide bomber or two attackers.

Domodedovo Airport said it was not responsible for the blast. "We fully met all the requirements in the sphere of air transport security for which we are responsible," spokeswoman Yelena Galanova said in televised comments.

Medvedev delayed his departure to Davos, where he is to court foreign investment in Russia in his opening keynote speech at the World Economic Forum on Wednesday.

Analysts said the attack could hamper Kremlin efforts to reform Russia`s energy-reliant economy.

"The heightened threat to national security distracts top officials` attention from other pressing issues, such as formulating the economic policy agenda for the next political cycle," Moscow investment bank VTB Capital said in a note.

"It might also affect calculations for the 2011-12 election campaign," the note read.

Putin, the dominant partner in Russia`s `tandem` leadership, built his tough reputation by launching a war in late 1999 to crush a rebel government in Chechnya, a North Caucasus province.

That campaign achieved its immediate aim but insurgency has spread to neighboring Ingushetia and Dagestan and spawned persistent attacks beyond the North Caucasus, despite Kremlin vows to crush insurgents and nurture the region with subsidies.

Last March, two female suicide attackers from Dagestan killed 40 rush-hour commuters in Moscow`s metro.

Further attacks could increase pressure from hardliners on Putin to return to the presidency next year.

The spread of violence from the North Caucasus, where it is fed by a cocktail of corruption, poverty and clan rivalries as well as religious radicalism, fans Russian nationalist militancy in the heartland.

Tensions between ethnic Russians and the 20 million Muslims who make up one-seventh of Russia`s population flared dramatically last month. Russian nationalists attacked passersby of non-Slavic appearance -- many of them from the North Caucasus -- in central Moscow, just steps from the Kremlin.

On Tuesday police officers boosted their presence around railroad stations and airports, carrying out spot checks of people who looked as though they could be from the Caucasus.

The worst attack carried out by North Caucasus insurgents took place in 2004 when militants seized control of a school in the town of Beslan. When Russian troops stormed the building in an attempt to end a siege, 331 hostages, more than half of them children, were killed.

Bureau Report