A major terrorist bombing took place today in the Dagestani city of Kaspiisk, some 14 kilometers southeast of the republic’s capital, Makhachkala. According to preliminary reports, an explosive device went off at around 9:45 AM, local time, either 150 meters or 300 meters (depending on the report) from Kaspiisk’s central square, where a large crowd of people had gathered for a parade in honor of Victory Day, marking the end of the Second World War. As of this writing, the toll from the blast is twenty-nine dead, including twelve children. More than 100 people were wounded, fifty of them seriously. A large number of children had come to see the parade. According to one report, the explosive device detonated near a bus filled with members of a Russian Marine marching band who were set to participate in the Victory Day parade; according to another, the bomb went off after the parade had already gotten underway and soldiers were marching by. Sources in Dagestan’s Interior Ministry said the explosive device was apparently hidden in shrubbery (NTVru.com, Gazeta.ru, Lenta.ru, Polit.ru, May 9).
President Vladimir Putin was immediately informed about the blast and personally briefed about the situation by Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov and Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Nikolai Patrushev. Putin, who said he had no doubt the blast was the result of a terrorist act, put the FSB chief in charge of investigating the bombing and ordered that the perpetrators of the act be caught and punished in the shortest possible time. “Crimes of such a type and such cruelty cannot but arouse emotions,” the Russian president said in his initial reaction to the bombing. “These emotions must not prevent us from carrying out a full investigation of this crime.” Magomedali Magomedov, head of Dagestan’s ruling State Council, who traveled to the scene of the blast, said the perpetrators of the bombing were “real scum” and “traitors” who would be “destroyed” (Strana.ru, NTVru.com, May 9).
Putin commented on the terrorist attack again today during a Victory Day reception in the Kremlin. The Russian president called the perpetrators of the blast “scum for whom nothing is sacred.” He added: “And we have complete justification in treating them the same as the Nazis, whose only goal was to bring death, sow fear, murder. Even on this day, when we celebrate victory and remember those who died in the war, bandits coldly and calculatedly murder innocent people, including children” (RIA Novosti, May 9). Prior to learning of the Kaspiisk bomb blast, Putin and members of his cabinet, including Defense Minister Ivanov, had attended a Victory Day parade on Red Square, where Putin told a parade of some 5,000 troops that terrorism was “just as dangerous as Nazism” during the Second World War. “The forces of evil and violence reappear again and again in the world,” Putin declared. “Today they have other names and other habits, but they all also bring death and destruction” (AFP, May 9). Putin made similar points yesterday in remarks to veterans of the Great Patriotic War, as World War Two is known in Russia. The Russian president said that countries around the world had come to understand “that an evil like terrorism cannot be handled alone” and that the “common struggle against it must be just as uncompromising as was our struggle against fascism” (see Russia’s Week, May 9).
No person or group has thus far claimed responsibility for today’s blast in Kaspiisk. Today’s explosion was also not the first large-scale terrorist bombing there. In November 1996, a bomb destroyed an apartment building in the city, killing sixty-nine people. Most of the victims of that attack either belonged to the border guard service or were members of their families. According to various theories, the earlier incident was either the work of Chechen splinter groups trying to derail the peace process that was then taking place in Chechnya or of mafia groups taking revenge on the border guards for blocking the smuggling of narcotics and arms and/or sturgeon into Russia (see the Monitor, November 18-19, 1996; June 23, 1998).
Meanwhile, Chechen rebels today fired two rounds from a grenade launcher at Dinamo stadium in Djohar (Grozny), the Chechen capital, where a Victory Day concert was taking place. Among those in attendance were Akhmad Kadyrov, head of Chechnya’s pro-Moscow administration, and Stanislav Ilyasov, prime minister of the republic’s pro-Moscow government, along with other cabinet members. One of the grenades hit a wall behind the stage, severely wounding a police officer. None of the VIPs was harmed and the concert was allowed to continue. Early this morning, prior to the start of the Victory Day festivities in the capital, security personnel reportedly discovered and defused a “powerful explosive device” in Dinamo stadium (NTVru.com, May 9).
NEW IMMEDIATE NEIGHBORHOOD OF NATO AND EU.