(Corrects direction of Volgograd from Sochi to northeast from
northwest in paragraph 10)
* Putin threatens complete annihilation of "terrorists"
* Russian Olympic chief says all security measures in place
* No indication detainees suspected in suicide attacks
* Bombings raise fears before Russia hosts Winter Olympics
By Sergei Karpov
VOLGOGRAD, Russia, Dec 31 President Vladimir
Putin on Tuesday vowed to annihilate all "terrorists" following
two deadly bomb attacks in the southern Russian city of
Volgograd that raised security fears ahead of the Winter
The uncompromising remarks in a televised New Year address
were Putin's first public comments since suicide bombers killed
at least 34 people in attacks less than 24 hours apart on a
railway station and a trolleybus on Sunday and Monday.
But after two decades of violence in the North Caucasus,
Islamist militants continue to pose a threat beyond their home
region. Russia's Olympic Committee chief said no more could be
done to safeguard the Games since every measure possible was
already in place around Sochi, beneath the Caucasus mountains.
The bombings just ahead of Russia's biggest annual holiday
followed another suicide bus blast in Volgograd in October and
came little more than a month before the start of Games on whose
success Putin has staked his personal reputation.
"We will confidently, fiercely and consistently continue the
fight against terrorists until their complete annihilation," he
said in remarks from the far eastern city of Khabarovsk, where
he met victims of severe floods.
Acknowledging "problems and serious tests" in 2013,
including the Volgograd bombings, he vowed to ensure the
security in the year ahead, when Russia stages the Winter
Olympics from Feb. 7-23.
Putin, who came to power when Boris Yeltsin announced his
resignation on New Year's Eve 14 years ago, won popularity early
in his presidency by crushing efforts to forge an independent
state in Chechnya but he has been unable to stop Chechen and
other Islamist militants across the North Caucasus.
Police detained dozens of people in sweeps through Volgograd
on Tuesday but there was no indication any were linked to the
attacks, for which no one claimed responsibility.
Mourners laid flowers at the site of the bombing that tore
the bus apart and left residents fearing further violence.
"I'm frightened," said Tatyana Volchanskaya, a student in
Volgograd, 700 km (400 miles) northeast of Sochi. She said some
friends were afraid to go to shops and other crowded places.
SOCHI SAID SECURE
Putin ordered tighter security nationwide after the blasts,
but Russian Olympic chief Alexander Zhukov said no additional
measures would be taken at Sochi: "As for the Olympic Games, all
necessary security measures have been foreseen," Interfax news
agency quoted him as saying on Monday.
"Additional measures will not be taken in Sochi as a result
of the terrorist act. Everything necessary has been done as it
Putin has staked his prestige on the Games in Sochi, which
lies at the Western edge of the Caucasus mountains and within
the strip of land the insurgents want to carve out of Russia and
turn into an Islamic state.
Insurgent leader Doku Umarov has urged militants to use
"maximum force" to prevent the Games from going ahead.
Russia drove separatists from power in Chechnya in a war
that boosted the popularity of Putin, a former KGB officer.
But the insurgency that spread across the North Caucasus
region in the aftermath of that conflict has persisted despite
Putin's repeated, strongly worded pledges to eliminate the
militants whose attacks have cast a shadow over his rule.
As prime minister in 1999, he vowed to "wipe them out in the
shithouse" and in 2010, after female suicide bombers killed 40
people on the Moscow metro, he ordered police to find their
masters and "scrape them from the bottom of the sewers".
Less than a year later, in January 2011, a bomber from the
North Caucasus killed 37 people at a busy Moscow airport.
The rail station bombing in Volgograd was the deadliest
attack outside the North Caucasus since then, killing 18 people.
Citing unnamed sources, Interfax said the suspected attacker was
an ethnic Russian convert to Islam who moved to Dagestan where
he joined militants early in 2012.
Investigators said they believed a male suicide bomber was
also responsible for Monday's morning rush-hour blast.
Volgograd - formerly Stalingrad - is a city of a million and
a transport hub for an area of southern Russia that includes the
A car bomb killed a prosecutor's assistant in Dagestan on
Tuesday and two people were killed in a bomb blast there late on
Monday, authorities said.
In Volgograd, more than 5,000 police and interior troops
were mobilised in "Operation Anti-terror Whirlwind", Interior
Ministry spokesman Andrei Pilipchuk said. He said 87 people had
been detained after they resisted police or could not produce
proper ID or registration documents, and that some had weapons.
State television showed helmeted officers pushing men up
against a wall. But there was no sign any were linked to the
bombings or suspected of planning further attacks.
Itar-Tass news agency said police were focusing on migrant
workers from the Caucasus and ex-Soviet states - groups that
rights activists say face discrimination from police.
The success or failure of the Olympics will form a big part
of the legacy of Putin, 60. He secured the Games for Sochi in
2007, during his first stint as president, and has not ruled out
seeking a new six-year term in 2018.
Intended to showcase how Russia has changed since the
collapse of Soviet communism in 1991, the Games have also been a
focus for complaints in the West and among Russian liberals that
Putin has stifled dissent and encouraged intolerance.
This month, Putin freed jailed opponents including oil
tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky and the Pussy Riot punk band in what
critics said was an effort to disarm Western criticism and
improve his image.
(Writing by Steve Gutterman; Editing by Giles Elgood and