After bombings Putin vows Russia won't give in to terror
Tuesday, July 8, 2003
MOSCOW -- In the wake of twin suicide attacks at a Moscow rock festival, President Vladimir Putin vowed Monday that Russia would not give in to terrorism and asserted that Chechen rebels are supported by international groups.
The separatist rebels that have been fighting Russian forces for nearly four years in Chechnya are seen by officials as being behind the Saturday blasts that killed 15 people, including the two female bombers, and injured scores.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but news reports have said a passport was found at the site showing that one of the bombers was a Chechen.
Putin, in a meeting with his Cabinet, said "today, after the latest series of terrorist acts, we can say that the bandits active in Chechnya are not simply connected with international terrorist organizations, they have become an integral, maybe the most dangerous part, of the international web."
"No country in the world bows to the dictates of terrorists and Russia will not do so either," Putin said, according to the news agency Interfax. "We must pluck them out from the basements and caves where they are hiding and destroy them."
The statement echoed the harsh language that Putin used as prime minister in 1999, shortly before Russian forces swept back into Chechnya at the start of the second war in the republic in a decade.
The conflict has deteriorated into a bloody stalemate in which Russian forces pound rebel positions with artillery and air strikes while the rebels kill Russians in near-daily hit-and-run attacks.
The Kremlin has refused to negotiate with Chechnya's rebel president Aslan Maskhadov, and prominent human rights activist Lev Ponomaryov said Monday that policy only encourages "ultraradicals."
The bombing of the rock festival was a grim reminder of how the sprawling Russian capital is vulnerable to terrorism.
The bombing brought back painful memories of last October's raid on a Moscow theater by scores of Chechen rebels; 129 hostages died, almost all from effects of the narcotic gas that special forces pumped in to end the siege.
Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov declared Tuesday a day of mourning in the city, meaning that entertainment programs will not be shown on local television and comedies will not be performed in the city's theaters.
He also announced that relatives of those killed would receive $3,300 in compensation and victims who needed hospitalization would get $1,650.
City health officials said 38 people injured in the blasts remained hospitalized on Monday; initially 59 victims had been admitted to hospitals.