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Russia steps up security at train stations after twin bombings in Volgograd

December 30, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT
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HARI SREENIVASAN: Now back to Russia, where a pair of bombings have rocked a city in the country’s southeast this week. No one has claimed responsibility in the attacks and there are worries that they may intensify as the start of the Sochi Winter Olympic Games comes closer.

Bomb technicians and investigators in Volgograd combed through the charred remains of a trolley car hours after a suicide bomb packed with shrapnel ripped it apart during Monday morning rush hour.

WOMAN (through interpreter): I heard it. I live here in the courtyard. I had just started the engine of my car. And I noticed that my wheel was flat. I went out and felt the blast. The ground was shaking, and the windows of the car were shaking.

HARI SREENIVASAN: A day earlier, a woman blew herself up at Volgograd’s main railway station, killing 17 people. Closed-circuit television captured the moment of detonation outside and inside the station.

Today, Russia’s main investigative agency said the two bombs were similar, and likely the work of the same group.

VLADIMIR MARKIN, Russian Investigative Committee (through interpreter): According to preliminary information, the explosive device on the trolley bus was at least the equivalent of almost nine pounds of TNT.

Like the explosive device at the train station, it was stuffed with shrapnel, and because the shrapnel was identical in both explosive devices, this confirms to the investigators that the two terrorist acts were connected.

HARI SREENIVASAN: A state of emergency has now been imposed in Volgograd and authorities have stepped up security at train stations across Russia.

VLADIMIR STEPANOV, Russian Deputy Emergency Minister (through interpreter): I want to stress that because of these events, all departments were put under a regime of high alert across the whole country. Our forces and facilities are ready across the country.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Volgograd was also hit last October by a bus bombing captured on video. That killed six. The southern city is the former Stalingrad and a key transportation hub for Russia’s restive North Caucasus. The region includes Dagestan and Chechnya, where Muslim separatists have long sought independence.

The city is also about 400 miles northeast of Sochi, where the Winter Olympics will be held in less than six weeks. Last July, Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov threatened to strike civilian targets across Russia, including at Sochi.

The government has employed extraordinary measures, including the use of elite forces, to protect the Winter Games. But after two bombings in two days, some in Volgograd have their doubts.

MAN (through interpreter): I think that of the people standing here, no one would tell you that they feel safe. A lot has been promised, but little has been done. It’s clear. Everyone can see it.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Even so, the head of the Russian Olympic Committee voiced confidence today. He said — quote — “Everything necessary has already been done.”