Volgograd citizens question their safety leading up to the Sochi games after a second suicide bomb attack on a crowded train station platform killed 17 Sunday morning. Witnesses who survived say a woman detonated the explosives after a police officer who thought she looked suspicious dashed toward her. That officer and several others in the vicinity were killed in the blast. This horrific incident comes hot on the heels of another suicide explosion that ripped apart an electric trolley car and killed 14 people. Authorities suspect that the role of Volgograd as a major transit hub of southern Russia has made it a prime target for terror attacks in the six weeks leading up the Sochi Olympic games. Every day hundreds of commuters travel through Volgograd train and bus stations to reach Sochi, making the stations and cars rewarding targets for those looking to spread fear in a city that stands for Russian determination proven in the grueling winters of World War II. Because Volgograd is such an iconic city in Russian history, terror attacks that strike there are particularly vicious.
Many question the ability of Russian agencies to quell the threats and protect the scores of Olympic athletes that will soon be descending on the town. As it stands, many are saying they expect to decline if invited, barring a sharp increase in security. With a budget of $60 billion, the Sochi games are lined up to be the most expensive in history, with Russia promising security that has never been matched. A month before the games are set to begin cars will be banned in the city, and citizens are already undergoing thorough identity checks and security check points. Despite the effort put into preventing further attacks there has been little success in identifying those responsible for the three attacks that have occurred since Oct., when six were killed in another bomb attack on a bus. Volgograd citizens question their safety leading up to Sochi games as the increased security in Sochi and Volgograd has done little to ease tensions.
Many believe that the main cause of the attacks centering on Volgograd are the many buses and train routes connecting it to the violent North Caucasus region. Rebel attacks have rocked the areas due south of Volgograd for years without leaving the borders, but these most recent attacks are thought to be the work of followers of a Chechen rebel leader named Doku Umarov. Analysts think that rebels are using the transit hub to extend their reach beyond their usual territory in the wake of Umarovs months old threat of attacks against the Russian populace. Russian police forces have been ordered to increase patrols at all transit stations. Umarov is said to have urged his followers to “do their utmost to derail the Sochi games.” The fear of future attacks has made Volgograd citizens question their safety leading up to the Sochi Games. As the games draw nearer most are concerned that Russian security will be able to do little to thwart future attacks, from wherever they may come.
By Daniel O’Brien