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The attack on Volgograd and the Olympics

By Dale R. Herspring

The recent terrorist attacks on the main train station in Volgograd, followed two days later by one on a bus,  killed at least 28 and wounded 34 people, some critically..  Both bombers are believed to have been women; known in Russia as “black widows.” 

Suicide bombers are nothing new in Russia.  They struck many times during the past year.  Who are they, these people (mostly women) who so willingly blow themselves up.?  Why do they do it?

These attacks are an extension of the war the Russians have been fighting in Chechnya for the last 10 years.  To most Russians, they are radical Islamists trying to bring the war to the Russians by spreading terror throughout the country. 

They are also vicious.  They think nothing of attacking innocent women and children.  For example, the second attack on December 31 reportedly killed a nine-year-old girl, and the first one seriously wounded other children. 

Their hope is that if they spread terror throughout the country the Russians will get tired of such events and decide to let Chechnya become an independent country.  

  As we have learned here in the USA, stopping this form of terrorism is very difficult.  Often they do not use electronic devices for communication, so it is difficult to listen in as they communicate with each other .  They are spread out, they don’t live and work in just one area.  Furthermore, it is very difficult to search a woman, especially one wearing a burka.  If they do search such women, they risk setting off an even more serious and widespread conflict.

There is also another factor behind the actions of these terrorists.  Most of them come from the region surrounding Chechnya where war has been a common event. 

Vladimir Putin was deeply involved in the second invasion of Chechnya.  He permitted the army to carry out the most brutal actions.  For example, he allowed the use of “fuelairexplosives.”  These are bombs that suck all of the air out of a certain area,  thereby suffocating those in it. 

Similarly, when the army attacked Gorky, the capital of Chechnya, instead of fighting house to house, the Russians leveled the city, killing civilians as well as the enemy. 

In addition, Putin permitted security forces to go to a house unannounced and proceed to take away any males of 16-17 – or older, often never to be seen again.  From the Russian point of view, this meant fewer young men to become terrorists.  The result was a much quieter Chechnya, but a radicalized population.  

Now, let us turn to the Olympics.  Putin is well aware that these terrorists would like nothing better than to set off bombs during the Olympics.  As a result, the Russians have gone to great extremes to provide security for the Games.  For example, they have fortified the 60 by 40 miles surrounding the city of Sochi.  They have brought in some 50,000 security-police to the area around and in Sochi. 

Starting a week before the Olympics it will not be possible to drive private cares in this roped off area.  Furthermore, everyone will have to carry identity documents proving that they live in this region. 

One further point that should be made is that the Russian police can be brutal in the way they treat people.  My point: if anyone is even a little bit out of line, he or she can expect to deal “up close and personally” with those paid to maintain order.

   There is a certain irrationality in Putin’s actions.  For him, this is a very important event; one that he hopes will put Russia back on the map again.  I don’t blame him for putting so much effort in these games.  He has insured that Russian security forces and Olympic employees worked overtime getting every detail perfect. 

For example, Russia will try to outdo all previous Olympic Games If, when the games were held in other countries, two hundred rockets were fired off, Putin will fire two thousand.  Furthermore, they are always done properly.  After all, the military is generally in charge of such rockets and I must say that the celebrations I saw when I lived in Moscow were a sight to behold  

I mentioned above that the actions of the terrorists sent a shiver of fear throughout not only Russia, but the outside world as well.  After all, Volgograd is only 400 miles from Sochi, where the Olympics will be held. 

How can security be assured?  After all, the terrorists have warned that they will attack Sochi during the Olympics. 

While no one can read the future, I believe that with the precautions taken by Russian security organs, there is little chance of an attack in the Olympics per se.

  The real danger facing Russia is the rest of the country.  If 50,000 security and police officers are in Sochi, that means that the rest of the country is minus a very large number of police officers. 

With fewer police and security officers in the rest of the country, the chances for a terrorist attack elsewhere go up.  A terrorist attack in St. Petersburg would also get the word’s attention  

So much for a quiet Olympics.  Most the action may take place elsewhere, because I believe the terrorists are determined to make a point during the Olympic Games.   

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