Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 155

The Russian authorities have arrested three suspects in connection with the explosion yesterday at Pushkin Square in central Moscow. The blast took place at around 6 PM inside a crowded pedestrian walkway which passes underneath Pushkin Square and Tverskaya Street, one of central Moscow’s thoroughfares. Eight people died. Dozens more were wounded. Twenty-nine of those, the Moscow city government’s health authorities reported today, remain in critical condition.

There is very little doubt that terrorists are responsible. Russian security services announced today that three men have been arrested on suspicion of involvement in the bombing. Vladimir Pronichev, deputy director of the Federal Security Service (FSB), said that two suspects were arrested last night thanks to evidence given by nearly 500 witnesses. He said also that one of the suspects was a Chechen and the other an Avar (an ethnic group closely related to the Chechens from neighboring Dagestan). A short time later, Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo announced that two residents of Dagestan had been arrested. They had been found, he said, in possession of narcotics, religious literature suggesting that they were adherents of Wahhabi Islam and a supply of weapons. The two mentioned by Pronichev and the two mentioned by Rushailo are apparently the same pair. Rushailo said further that a third suspect was arrested in Moscow Oblast, just outside the capital, with a weapons cache and bomb-making materials in his possession.

Adolf Mishev, a security expert with the Moscow city government, said today that it could be stated “with full confidence” that the bomb was either TNT or a mixture of TNT and hexogen, and that when it detonated it was some 15 centimeters from the ground (those killed having been within a two-meter range). The reports that the device was apparently above the ground when it went off have led to some speculation that it may have been on the person of a suicide bomber. That, however, would contradict the reports that it was in a package left at a kiosk. Interior Minister Rushailo said today that the reports that the bomb was carried by a kamikaze had not proved true. He said also that the bomb was a saltpeter-magnesium mixture similar to that used in the bombs which destroyed two Moscow apartment buildings last year. The Russian authorities blamed those blasts on Chechen terrorists. The incidents were the proximate cause for the latest war in Chechnya. Rushailo said that yesterday’s blast was the result of some 400 grams of TNT. Other officials were quoted as saying that measure was the equivalent of one-and-a-half kilograms. The bomb reportedly contained nuts and bolts–apparently to serve as shrapnel, thereby making the bomb more lethal (Russian agencies, August 8-9; Vremya novosti, August 9).

President Vladimir Putin, who called yesterday’s bombing in the capital a tragedy for the entire country, put the investigation into the blast under his direct control. Security has been significantly tightened in Moscow and around the rest of Russia. The capital remained tense today, with bomb scares in Kazan railway station and the main offices of Sberbank, the state savings bank (Russian agencies, August 9).