Volgograd attacks: Russia steps up security in advance of Winter Olympics

Second suicide bombing raises fears state won’t be able to guarantee safety

Russian authorities ordered tighter security at stations and other facilities across the country after a second suicide bomb in the city of Volgograd, formerly called Stalingrad, killed at least 14 people when it went off in a packed city trolleybus, blowing off the roof, demolishing the sides and shattering windows in a nearby building.

Coming one day after a bomb at the city’s railway station that killed 16 and wounded dozens more, the attack renewed fears about the ability of the Russian authorities to guarantee security for the Winter Olympics in the Black Sea port of Sochi in February. No organisation has claimed credit for the attacks but Russian authorities said they believed it was the work of the same group as Sunday’s bomb. Suspicion immediately focused on Doku Umarov, a Chechen warlord who now describes himself as the “Emir” of the North Caucasus “caliphate”.

In a video released in July, the Islamist announced that he was lifting his “moratorium” on attacks aimed at Russian civilians and intended specifically to target the Olympics in Sochi, which is close to the restive North Caucasus. Describing the Games as “satanic”, he said “They plan to hold the Olympics on the bones of our ancestors, on the territory of our land on the Black Sea.”

Volgograd, which was hit by a suicide bomb attack in October, is the closest Russian city to the region. Today there was speculation the city had been targeted because security precautions in both Sochi and Moscow are already so tight as to make them virtually impenetrable to terrorist attack.  

President Putin summoned officials to report on the attacks and sent the head of the Federal Security Service to Volgograd to lead the investigation there. But he has yet to make any comment about them, and seemed intent on treating the attacks as phlegmatically as possible. In the same spirit Alexander Zhukov, chief of the Russian Olympic Committee, said there was no need to take any extra security precautions in Sochi following the attacks because “everything necessary already has been done”.

Mr Putin has staked his prestige on staging a successful Games, at a cost of £29bn. His out-of-character acts of clemency earlier this month, pardoning his long-standing enemy and judicial victim Mikhail Khodorkovsky and freeing foreign members of Greenpeace and the Pussy Riot punk rock group, were seen as attempts to sweeten the diplomatic atmosphere in advance of the Games.

No such charm offensive will de-fang Doku Umarov and his fighters, however, described earlier in the year by the International Crisis Group as “the most violent in Europe today”.

To prevent atrocities wrecking the Sochi Games, the Russians are implementing restrictive security measures there, putting the entire city under lockdown from 7 January, with access only allowed to people and vehicles with security clearance. But analysts fear that whatever extra measures Mr Putin orders, they may not be enough to stop further attacks. Nikolai Petrov, a professor at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, said: “Security services are in a complicated position. If they now increase their presence in Volgograd, it will be at the expense of Sochi and other regions. Security was already operating at full capacity before this happened. Nothing can be done at this point to enlarge these resources. The problem is that, in a country the size and complexity of Russia, you can’t protect every place.”

An expert on the Caucasus insurgency, Raffaello Pantucci, senior research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London, commented, “Events in Volgograd will worry people ahead of the Sochi Olympics. Russia and President Putin in particular have put great emphasis on the security of the Games, while the Caucasus Emirate leader Doku Umarov has equally made a point of stating they plan on targeting the Games.

“The choice of Volgograd may reflect a desire to strike a symbolic Russian city, but it also serves to highlight how terrorists from the North Caucasus are able to strike with relative impunity. They have a seemingly limitless supply of willing bombers and material to supply them. Russian services may be effective at disrupting groups, but networks linked to Chechnya or Dagestan have managed to strike regularly in the heart of Russian cities, bring down airplanes, take over hospitals, schools and theatres and hit supposedly hardened targets like international airports.

“People have good reason to be concerned about the Sochi Games. While it is likely that Russian authorities will expend substantial efforts to protect the Games sites themselves … Umarov’s networks might use the opportunity to launch an attack elsewhere.”

The president of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Back declared his full confidence that the Russian authorities will deliver a “safe and secure” Games in Sochi. He said, “the Olympic movement joins me in utterly condemning this cowardly act”. And in a letter to President Putin he wrote, “I am certain that everything will be done to ensure the security of the athletes and all the participants of the Olympic Games.”

One top foreign official at the Games could not conceal his dismay at the turn of events. Rene Fasel, head of the umbrella group of Winter Olympics sports bodies, said he expected security at the Games to be as tight as it was at the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, held in 2001. “It will be very difficult for everybody,” he said. “I’m sure the Russians will do everything possible, but that means we will have an unbelievably [tight] security control.”

The Foreign Office held back from warning against travel to Russia. An update to the travel advisory noted, “There is a high threat from terrorism. You should remain vigilant in all public places.”

1972: Munich Games

The Palestinian militant group Black September took the Israeli national team hostage in a 16-hour standoff. Eleven Israeli athletes and coaches and one German police officer were eventually killed.

Terrorism and sport: Previous attacks

1996: Atlanta Olympics

Former US army officer Eric Robert Rudolph set off a bomb that killed two people and injured 111 others, motivated by his anti-abortion and anti-gay beliefs.

1997: Grand National

Sixty thousand spectators were evacuated after organisers received two bomb threats from the IRA.

2009: Sri Lanka v Pakistan

Gunmen attacked a bus carrying Sri Lanka’s cricket team en route to the Pakistani city of Lahore. The terror attack killed eight security personnel and injured six players.

2013: Boston Marathon

Two bombs detonated at the finish line, killing three people and injuring over 260 others. The terror attacks led to a manhunt for Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the two brothers suspected of committing the attacks.

Read more:

Russia’s bitter relationship with Chechnya will be in the spotlight during Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics in February

The security fallout from the Volgograd atrocity won’t be pretty  

The Islamist threat to the Winter Games in Sochi is real

Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
peoplePamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
tvExecutive says content is not 'without any purpose'
News
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
Arts and Entertainment
tvSpielberg involved in bringing his 2002 film to the small screen
Sport
sportLeague Managers' Association had described Malky Mackay texts as 'friendly banter'
News
A polar bear’s diet is rich in seal blubber and half of its own body weight is composed of fat
i100
News
peopleCareer spanned 70 years, including work with Holocaust survivors
News
people
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
News
London is the most expensive city in Europe for cultural activities such as ballet
arts
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson has rejected criticisms of his language, according to BBC director of television Danny Cohen
tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of IT (Not-for-Profit sector) - East Sussex

£45000 - £50000 per annum + 5 weeks holiday & benefits: Ashdown Group: Head of...

Nursery Nurse

£25 per day: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery nurse needed in th...

Supply Teaching jobs in Thetford

£21588 - £31566 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education ar...

KS1 teachers needed in Peterborough

£110 - £125 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education are ur...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape