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Suicide Bombings In Russia Raise Concerns About Olympics Security

Dec 30, 2013
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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

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And I'm Audie Cornish. Authorities in Russia are tightening security around the country after a pair of suicide bombings in the southern city of Volgograd. Earlier today, a bomb went off on a bus during rush hour, killing 14 people and wounding dozens. Just yesterday, a woman detonated a bomb at the entrance to the city's railroad station killing herself and 16 others.

The attacks come as Russians prepare to host the Winter Olympics in Sochi. NPR's Corey Flintoff reports from Moscow.

COREY FLINTOFF, BYLINE: The country had barely had time to absorb the news of Sunday's bombing when the headlines started again.

(SOUNDBITE OF RUSSIAN NEWS BROADCAST)

FLINTOFF: That's the TV channel NTV announcing the blast that ripped apart a crowded city bus. Investigators say the bomb was similar to the one at the train station was likely produced by the same people. No one has claimed responsibility yet, but the attacks seem to fit a pattern used by Islamist insurgents from nearby areas in the North Caucasus Mountains.

It could also be linked to a call by Islamist leader Dokka Umarov for attacks on Sochi, the North Caucasus resort town that will host the winter games in February. Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, says insurgents will try to breach the tight security in and around Sochi.

DMITRI TRENIN: Disrupting the Olympics in Sochi would be the most important evil act that they can hatch. If they cannot do that, at least they can spoil the atmosphere around the games.

FLINTOFF: Trenin says the attackers may have chosen Volgograd because it's the closest major city outside the North Caucasus to show that their reach extends beyond their own region and, he says, Volgograd has a special resonance with Russians. When it was called Stalingrad, the city was the site of the battle that many Russians consider to be a decisive victory in the Second World War.

The attacks also seem timed to spoil the biggest Russian holiday, New Year's Eve in the first week of the new year. Dmitri Trenin says the effect is to put a damper on the year for President Putin who's claiming a string of foreign policy successes ranging from blocking Western military action in Syria to preventing Ukraine from aligning with the European Union.

TRENIN: So you're spoiling the year that's coming to an end and you're sending a very bad message for the next year.

FLINTOFF: The biggest event on next year's calendar for Putin is the Winter Olympics, an event on which he has staked billions of dollars and a lot of his own prestige. Analysts are predicting that Russian authorities will go full out in their effort to find and stop the people behind the latest bombings. Corey Flintoff, NPR News, Moscow. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.