Putin visits Volgograd after deadly blasts

Russian leader meets victims of two bomb attacks and holds counterterrorism meeting with country's security chiefs.

    Vladimir Putin has made a pre-dawn visit to Volgograd, the Russian city reeling from two suicide bombings this week, bringing gestures of sympathy for the victims and questions for the officials he has ordered to tighten security.

    The Russian president placed a bouquet on Wedneday at the site of the trolley-bus bombing and visited a hospital where some of the wounded were being treated.

    "Whatever motivated the criminals' actions, there is no justification for committing crimes against civilians, especially against women and children," Putin said, opening a meeting earlier in Volgograd with the heads of the Federal Security Service and the Interior Ministry.

    He said he would ask the two officials in the closed-door session for details on what measures their agencies were taking to beef up security in the country.

    The bombings raised fears of further attacks before Russia hosts the Winter Olympics in less than six weeks in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, a major prestige project for Putin.

    Putin pledged to annihilate "terrorists" in his first public comments on Tuesday after suicide bombers killed at least 34 people in attacks on a railway station and a trolleybus on Sunday and Monday. No one has claimed responsibility for the bombings.

    "I am certain that we will fiercely and consistently continue the fight against terrorists until their complete annihilation," Putin said, according to Russian news agencies.

    Putin, who first became president when his predecessor Boris Yeltsin stepped down and named him to the post exactly 14 years ago on Tuesday, has been unable to defeat fighters in the Muslim provinces of the North Caucasus.

    Suicide bombings have rocked Russia for years, but the fighters seeking to create an Islamic state have largely confined their attacks to the North Caucasus region in recent years.

    The blasts in Volgograd - about 300km north of the Caucasus - indicated that the rebels wanted to show their reach outside their native region.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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