THE BOMBINGS IN VOLGOGRAD: THE NE PLUS ULTRA OF 'PUTINISM' ?
Never before has a country found itself in Russia's position: grappling with a series of terrorist attacks just weeks before it hosts an Olympic Games. Now, six weeks before the opening of the Winter Games in Sochi, twin suicide bombings in two days have rocked the city of Volgograd, killing at least 31 people. No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks. But early indications suggest that the similarities between the two, and a third suicide bombing in Volgograd in October, make them the handiwork of a single mastermind. Furthermore, no credible motive for the attacks has emerged other than the probability that North Caucasus militant leader Doku Umarov is flexing his muscles ahead of the Olympics. "The terrorists have demonstrated that they can attack the same targets several times, showing that the government is defenseless against them," said Yekaterina Sokirianskaia, head of Russia office of the International Crisis Group, an organization that recently called the unrest in the North Caucasus as "the most violent in Europe today." Umarov, leader of the so-called Caucasus Emirate, which aims to unify the North Caucasus into a single Islamic state, imposed a ban on terrorist attacks following a wave of anti-Kremlin protests in Moscow in 2011 and 2012. But he lifted the ban in July 2013, vowing to disrupt the "satanic" games in Sochi. Three major attacks have occurred outside the North Caucasus since then, and they all have a common link: the North Caucasus republic of Dagestan. The first major attack took place in October when a female suicide bomber detonated her explosives in a Volgograd bus, killing six. The bomber turned out to be a convert to Islam and the wife of a Dagestani militant. The likely perpetrator of Sunday's train station attack, which killed 17, has been identified as Pavel Pechenkin, a native of the Mari El republic who converted to Islam and joined an insurgency group in Dagestan in spring 2012. The suspected suicide bomber who struck a trolleybus on Monday, killing 14, has been traced to the same insurgency group. Dagestan is located just a few hours' drive east of Sochi, while Volgograd is located about 700 kilometers to the north of the Black Sea city. Security has been a primary concern for Olympics organizers, with the government allocating more than $2 billion for the purpose. But terrorism still remained rife in the North Caucasus in 2013...."Ivan Nechepurenko, "Volgograd Terror Raises Olympic Security Fears." The Moscow Times. 30 December 2013 in www.http://www.themoscowtimes.com
"Hours after a bomb struck a bus in the city of Volgograd this morning, adding at least 14 deaths to the toll of 17 people killed in an attack the previous night, Russia's official alert level remained yellow, not red. President Vladimir Putin had yet to address the nation. Putin has a history of responding slowly and coldly to public tragedies, but Volgograd -- once known as Stalingrad -- is about half way from Moscow to the site of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, which begin in less than 6 weeks. One would have expected a swifter response from the top. A spokesman for investigators on the case said this morning's attack was carried out by a suicide bomber, using the identical TNT explosives to the night before. Some Kremlin loyalists are indeed drawing the connection to the Olympics, and Putin today called for increased security nationwide and a special regime for Volgograd.... The mainly Muslim North Caucasus regions of Dagestan, Ingushetia and Chechnya supply most of the fanatical suicide bombers, many of them women, who have launched terrorist attacks in Russia over the years. Volgograd, a city of 1 million, is about 400 miles from these regions and accessible by train or road. It is also an easy target, because uncommonly vicious infighting between local businessmen and politicians make for a weak local government. Sergei Bozhenov is Volgograd's third governor in four years, his two predecessors, both locally-born, were destroyed by the constant struggles for power in the city. Putin sent in Bozhenov, who has a reputation for toughness, from a neighboring region, but now the governor, one of the most unpopular in Russia, appears to be at a loss as to how to deal with the terrorist attacks, promising only to augment the police force with volunteers. "Does the choice of Volgograd as the scene for terrorist attacks have anything to do with the fact that local law enforcement chiefs are seen as participants of the endless political infighting in the city and surrounding region?" editor Vlad Vlovin, a native of Volgograd, wrote in the daily Izvestia. "The law enforcers there have more important business than ensuring public safety...." Putin has allowed the U.S. State Department to overtake him in condemning the Volgograd attacks and sending condolences to the victims' families. Apart from the president's customary lack of empathy, this may hide a slow fuse burning. As soon as the mourning period for the victims ends, the hapless governor and the local security chiefs are likely to be replaced. Sochi will be turned into a veritable fortress. Otherwise, this is business as usual in Russia, where a terrorist underground continues to exist in the North Caucasus, despite the billions of dollars spent to eradicate it".Leonid Bershidsky. "Why Is Putin Silent on Pre-Sochi Bombings?" Bloomberg. 30 December 2013, in www.bloomberg.com. The essential idiocy of Putinism is perhaps best demonstrated by the goings on in Volgograd in the past few days. Notwithstanding, a terrorist outrage back in October of this year, the authorities appear to be completely clueless and at sea as it relates to stamping out the terrorist gang who is perpetrating this week-end's series of crimes in which complete innocents are being murdered. The fact that Putin himself offers no word of condolence and has said nothing about what has occurred is all of a piece. The fact that the Russian state has spent (allegedly) Two Billion dollars on 'security' prior to the games means one is tempted to say almost absolutely nothing. No doubt x percentage of said Two Billion dollars were pocketed by officials x,y and z and are being stashed away in Cypriot or Swiss banks. Equally typical is the fact that both in Dagestan and Volgograd are being run by recent appointees of Putin personally. And that both appointees are (it would again appear) running both locations into the ground. This is not to gainsay the fact that in this decadent day and age, any country which undertakes to sponsor the Olympic Games would have a difficult time of it. With that being said, the Pharaonic (if not Stalinist) aspect of the entire exercise is rather explicit in the Russian case. For a middle-income country like Russia, with almost severe infrastructural problems set to spend upwards of fifty-billion dollars, is pure almost pure insanity. With the only saving grace being that perhaps fifty percent if not more of the monies in question again being pocketed by corrupt officialdom 1. In short, expect a disaster of truly Russian proportions in the upcoming games in Sochi. Which of course is a tragedy for the poor people of Russia. May the good Lord indeed help them in this type of need. 1. Leader, "Counting the cost of sporting glory." The Financial Times. 30 December 2013, in www.ft.com.