Many see a connection between the terror attacks in Volgograd and the upcoming Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. Experts put part of the blame on Russia's government for the country's increasing terror threat.
The third terror attack in Volgograd within just over two months came Monday morning (30.12.2013) when a bomb exploded in a bus. Russian authorities say 14 people have been killed, and another 19 people have been injured. In a similar attack at the Volgograd train station on Sunday,17 people died, and more than 40 suffered injuries.
A spokesman for the committee investigating the crimes, Vladimir Markin, said the two attacks could be connected. Shortly before he issued that statement, reports emerged of similarities between Sunday's train station bombing and the first strike in Volgograd from on October 21, 2013, when a bomb also exploded in a bus. Authorities are speculating that the same person could be responsible for all three of the attacks.
Terrorist threats in Central Russia
The editor-in-chief of the Russian website Agentura.ru, Andrey Soldatov, believes a terror group of significant size is responsible for the series of attacks in Volgograd.
"I fear that ahead of the Olympic Games, the terrorists want to distract the security forces," he said in an interview with DW. Soldatov added that the terrorists may be out to prove they are also able to attack outside of the North Caucasus region - perhaps even choosing Volgograd randomly as a target.
Soldatov suspects that the leader of the self-proclaimed Caucasus Emirate, Doku Umarov, is responsible for the attacks. In July 2013, he urged his supporters to disrupt the Winter Olympic Games 2014 in Sochi.
"Unfortunately, we have to recognize that Umarov has followers who obey his orders and are able to commit terror attacks," said the Russian expert.
Conflicts among local elites
Sergey Gontsharov, chairman of the veterans' association of the Russian anti-terror unit Alpha, sees a direct connection between the attacks in Volgograd and the upcoming Olympic Games in Sochi. Visitors who already bought a ticket could now have doubts as to whether they should still travel to Russia.
Gontsharov sharply criticizes the intelligence services in light of the terror strikes. "The question is if the security forces work professionally enough. There are reports that the security forces in the region are weak because of conflicts among the local elites," he said in an interview with DW, arguing it's a problem that earlier attacks didn't lead to a noticeable increase of security personnel.
Blame also lies with the government for failing to appreciate how Russian terrorists have changed their tactics in recent years, Gontsharov claims. "In Russia, there are terrorist groups with only five or six members. They act independently and are subordinate to nobody," he said, adding that some terrorists also act completely alone.
Pursuing several targets
The colonel of the Federal Security Service of Russia (FSB), Gennady Gudkov, says that the terrorists are pursuing multiple targets at once. "Obviously, these were symbolic attacks. First, they want to ruin the Russian New Year's party, and second, they want to frighten the visitors of the Winter Olympic Games," he told DW.
Gudkov also points out that various extremist movements and ideologies are on the rise in Russia, and he says it's a problem that adherents of traditional Islam are not fighting back against extremists.
The Russian government isn't helping matters, Gudkov agrees, saying widespread corruption, judiciary arbitrariness and suppression of the people's rights and freedom play in the hands of terrorists.
"It's clear that the authorities are just standing by," he said, calling that fact a possible explanation for the increasing radicalization. The only solution the security expert sees is for the government to tackle the difficult task of bringing Russia's divergent social groups closer together.
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