Putin claimed that international organizations are connected to the Chechen separatists believed to be behind the attack.
Two female suicide bombers on Saturday detonated belts laden with explosives and scraps of metal outside a rock concert that was attended by some 40,000 at the Tushino airfield in Moscow. The explosions occurred after police apparently stopped one of the women as she approached the concert’s entrance.
Authorities immediately accused rebel separatist groups from the southern Russian republic of Chechnya of carrying out the bombings, which killed at least 13 people and injured more than 50 others.
“Today, in the wake of a series of terrorist attacks, we can say that the rebels operating in Chechnya are not simply connected with international terrorist organizations, they have become an integral, maybe the most dangerous part of the international web,” Putin said, according to the Interfax news agency.
“I will stress once again that no country in the world bows to the dictate of terrorists, and Russia will not do it either. Because the first step on that path would mean the beginning of the disintegration of the country, and then the number of victims would increase exponentially,” the president said.
“We must pluck them out from the basements and caves where they are hiding and destroy them,” Putin added, according to media accounts.
Putin canceled a scheduled trip to Uzbekistan and Malaysia in the wake of the bombings. U.S. President George W. Bush phoned the Russian leader Sunday to express his condolences and stress the need for further coordination in the effort against international terrorism, the Kremlin said, according to Interfax.
During Saturday’s attack, the first bomber detonated her explosives when security attempted to lead her away from the rock festival’s entrance.
“She was excited and pushed her way through the line to the entrance. When the police approached her to lead her away, she knew she had been caught and detonated her bomb,” an eyewitness told The Moscow Times of the first bomber.
A second bomber detonated her explosives 15 minutes later near a main ticket office, causing most of the injuries, according to the newspaper’s account.
In May, a similar suicide bombing was carried out by two females near the Chechen capital of Grozny, in an attack apparently aimed at the pro-Moscow administrator of the republic, Akhmad Kadryov. Kaydrov escaped the attack unhurt.
Saturday’s bombings raised new concerns about security in Russia’s capital. The attacks were the worst violence since a group of Chechen separatists seized a Moscow theater in late October, an attack that led to the deaths of 129 hostages after Russian forces used a narcotic gas to end the siege.
While no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, media reports indicated that officials found a passport belonging to one of bombers, a Chechen woman, and said that her relatives have ties to rebels.
Chechen rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov, speaking through his Moscow-based spokesman, Salambek Maigov, denied any involvement in the attack, according to The Moscow Times.
On Friday, Putin announced that presidential elections would be held in Chechnya on October 5 as part of a Kremlin backed plan for peace and constitutional reform in the war-torn republic that separatist groups have opposed. The Kremlin has refused to negotiate with Maskhadov or other separatist leaders on such issues.
Separatist fighters in Chechnya have been engaged in a decade-old battle against Russian federal forces over attaining complete independence from Moscow’s rule.
New reports of violence surfaced in Chechnya itself over the weekend, after indications that a Russian helicopter, which crashed in the region on Sunday, may have been shot down. Five soldiers were killed in the crash.