Terror in Russia
Vladimir Putin’s biggest challenge in the wake of the twin blasts in Volgograd is to save Russia’s Winter Olympics, less than six weeks away. It is still unclear whether the bombing is tied to the “Black Widows” who avenge family member deaths in the North Caucasus by targeting civilians or Islamic terrorists who have been Russia’s bugbear for a decade and a half in the southern parts of the country. The timing of two blasts — the second by a male bomber which decimated a trolleybus near the railway station — is probably indicative of divisions even in a highly regulated society.
Putin had gone out of the way to ensure a safe Games in Sochi (430 km from Volgograd), swimming against a tide of Western-inspired opposition that even wishes to take him on for his country’s homophobic policies. Russia’s strongman of 14 years standing as President made conciliatory gestures, releasing Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the discredited billionaire, and the rebellious punk rock group, Pussy Riot, to earn some brownie points among dissenters.
The initial word from the Olympic movement is that security is the responsibility of the host country. Word on the ground is Sochi is a far more secure spot now ahead of the Games, which may be why terrorists are striking out at more vulnerable cities. We have come some way from the days of sporting boycotts based on ideologies, as happened during the 1980 Moscow Games and 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. But security is a different ball game. Putin has to convince the world it is safe to come to his homeland.