Terror in Russia: is there more to come?

So far no group has claimed responsibility, an oddity in the world of terrorism, a gnawing suspicion, and God we hope to be wrong, is that this will be a pretext to a new wave of escalations in the ongoing but under-reported war with Chechnya’s separatists.

Last night the Prosecutors Office indicated that the terrorists had “left a lot of evidence at the scene.” Russian prosecutors have the right to hold that evidence under wraps until they have gathered all they can without coming to premature conclusions or to bolster their legitimate case.

This government of Vladimir Putin however has in the past shown an unusual willingness to both manufacture evidence to fit a desired outcome, or to suppress evidence if it doesn’t fit the desired conclusion. That bothers a great many national and international journalists who are watching this with great interest.

Russia is not actively involved in America’s war inside Iraq nor an outspoken partner against any other rogue state normally involved with terrorist actions. Except Chechnya. Russian Interior ministry today conducts almost unrestricted raids in Chechnya and has the situation pretty much balanced militarily in Russia’s favour.

British journalist Lindsey Hilsum among others has argured that the Russian hard line in Chechnya is breeding terrorists. Could this be a result?

Today the Christian Science Monitor reported that another bomb went off early this morning in the southern republic of Dagestan, striking an international train traveling from Tyumen, in Siberia, to Baku in Azerbaijan. No one was injured in that blast, but some analysts say there are clear signs that terrorists, who have never ceased operations amid turbulent Caucasus republics like Dagestan, Ingushetia, and Chechnya, may be preparing to resume more ambitious attacks upon Russia.

“This is a grave challenge for our people,” he said. “A crime, in which any one of us could be the victim, has been committed for effect. Everyone living in Russia is being intimidated.”

“Whoever did it chose the target very carefully and intended to attack the Russian elite,” says Nikolai Petrov, an expert with the Carnegie Center in Moscow. “This train, especially on a Friday, carries a lot of officials who are traveling between Russia’s two capitals, Moscow and St. Petersburg. It’s no surprise that at least two heads of government agencies were among the victims. It was clearly done to attract maximum political and media attention, and it obviously worked,” he says.

Over the spring and summer of 2006, Russia suffered a wave of terrorist attacks, most of them carried out by suicide bombers, including women. The attacks – at a rock concert in Moscow, a bus stop and military hospital in Mozdok and government buildings in Chechnya – killed more than 250 people.

There was a similar attack on the Nevsky Express in 2007 when a similar bomb caused minor injuries to about 60 people but failed to derail the train. In retrospect, just as the first attacks on New York’s World Trade Center bombers learned lessons from earlier failures, Russia’s attackers Friday may have learned from the previous attempt.

Until lately, the most adventurous Russian Islamists tended to head for Afghanistan, or somewhere else, to wage jihad. More recently however the attacks have been concentrated in the Caucausus area and now the sign are that Russia must worry about terror spreading in unexpected places all over the Federation.

Mourners light candles for the departed at Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.

For now television networks have taken entertainment programs off the air, moments of silence were observed before matches on the final Sunday of the Russian football league, and mourners lined up outside Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour to light candles and say prayers for the departed and those injured.

Dealing with the aftermath of a deadly crash

Sunday saw a stead stream of shocked families from Moscow and St. Petersburg who arrived at Tver city morgue where the bodies have been collected of those who were killed in Friday’s deadly train bombing.  

Valentina G. Dybina went to identify her 41-year-old cousin, one of 25 people killed in the bombing of a luxury train on Friday night, but she was so flustered by the bodies and body fragments shown to her that she walked out, planning to return later in the day when the number of corpses would be smaller.

On man, Renat Urusov, 24, said his brother-in-law’s body was intact — but somehow, the man who was sitting next to him stood up and walked away from the crash. “He took the train because he was afraid of flying,” said Mr. Urusov, who had driven some 500 miles trying to locate his brother-in-law in rural hospitals.

A day after the authorities determined that the crash was caused by a homemade bomb on the tracks, relatives had identified the bodies of nearly all the victims at the morgue in Tver, a regional capital midway between Moscow and the crash site.

The attack on the Russian Nevsky Express train was the deadliest in years outside the volatile Caucasus region and was certain to fuel fears of an upsurge of terror in Russia’s heartland.

Trains have often been targets: 30 people were injured in a blast that wrecked a train on the same stretch of line in 2007, an attack blamed on Pavel Kosolapov, a former soldier and associate of the late Chechen rebel leader Shamil Basayev. He is still on the run.

An explosion in a toilet on a Moscow to St Petersburg train in 1997 killed five people. At least 12 people were injured in 2005, when a bomb derailed a train heading from Chechnya to Moscow. A suicide bomb attack on a commuter train near Chechnya killed 44 people in 2003.

The metro and tramway systems in Moscow have also been targeted by Chechen rebels who complain of fierce oppression, including torture and summary executions, by forces from Moscow.

No leads in murder of Moscow priest

The gunman walked into St Thomas Church in southern Moscow, asked priest Daniil Sysoyev his name and then opened fire, investigators said.

The father of the slain Orthodox priest Daniil Sysoyev, Alexei (C), comforts a woman during funeral ceremony at a Moscow cemetery, 23 November.

The church’s choirmaster was also injured in the attack. A police spokesman said they believed the gunman had “religious motives”. Reports said Father Sysoyev, 35, had received threats via e-mail.

Russian media said he had been involved in missionary activities aimed at encouraging young people to choose the Orthodox Church. A statement on the website of Father Sysoyev’s missionary training center said he had been threatened by Muslims, AFP reported.

Father Sysoyev’s father is also an Orthodox priest.

(May God in His holy mercy grant blessed repose and eternal memory to Father Sysoyev. Amen)

Officials confirm train crash an act of terror

As passengers continued to arrive at the Saint Petersburg Moskovsky train station early Saturday Russian officials had already opened a terrorism investigation into the cause of the deadly crash. Investigators said that remains of the explosive device were found at the site.

On Friday evening the Russian train “Nevsky Express” carrying hundreds of passengers from Moscow to St. Petersburg derailed after an explosion, killing and injuring dozens of passengers. The Russian Prosecutor General’s office listed the death toll at 30, with 60 passengers hospitalized.

Alexander Borotnikov, head of Russia’s Federal Security Service told reporters that an improvised explosive device with roughly 7 kilograms of TNT had detonated when the train passed about half past 9pm on Friday night. A second explosive device partially detonated Saturday during the clear-up operation near the disaster site but there were no reports of additional injuries. 

The Nevsky Express, a high speed train is a popular and upscale train often carrying government officials and business executives and Friday’s derailment was Russia’s deadliest terrorist strike outside the North Caucasus region in years. As of late Saturday, authorities indicated that 18 people were still unaccounted for.

So far no groups have claimed responsibility for the bombing.

Deadly passenger train crash

Yesterday’s crash of the Nevsky Express Moscow – St. Petersburg train is looking more and more like a terror attack. Officials at the Directorate of the Russian Prosecution General’s Office in the North-Western Federal District are centering their investigation around a 3-meter wide crater found near a rail bridge. The London Guardian (UK) reported that some witnesses heard a large bang before the crash.

According to a source at police, the railway was exploded by a homemade explosive device with power capacity equivalent to 2 kg of TNT. The bomb was set on the way to a bridge: it looks like the terrorist intended to make the train fall from the bridge, which could have resulted in numerous casualties.

Known as the Nevsky Express, the high speed train carrying hundreds of passengers from Moscow to St. Petersburg derailed late Friday, killing at least 25 people and injuring dozens of others.

The three rear cars of the Nevsky Express went off the tracks in the Tver province northwest of Moscow, the Emergency Situations Ministry said. Russian Railways said that four cars derailed and said 50 people were taken to two hospitals in the area.

The Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations indicated that at least 25 persons had died and over 30 were still trapped in the wreckage. Russian media broadcast live images as ambulances drove in and out of the cordoned-off site.

The Nevsky Express is the fastest of several trains operating between the popular Moscow – St. Petersburg route. The Nevsky is a high speed train equiped exclusively with business class compartments.

More details in this video report…

Russian beauty wins Mrs. World pageant!

Mrs. Russia Victoria Radochinskaya, a 28-year-old advertising executive, was crowned Mrs. World 2009 during the pageant finals held Sunday, November 22, 2009, at the Ba Ria-Vung Tau Sport Hall in Vung Tau City, Vietnam.

Named First Runner Up was the candidate from the USA, Andrea Robertson, a professional model while Second Runner Up title went to the host delegate Hoang Thi Yen.

A total of 76 beautiful moms competed for the title. Five hundred million people around the world watched the international broadcast as Russian Victoria Radochinskaya, 28, took honours for the Mrs World contest in Vung Tau city .

In less than a year, three Russian beauty queens scored major international titles for their country: Ksenia Sukhinova (Miss World 2008), Ekaterina Grushanina (Miss Tourism Queen International 2009) and Victoria Radochinskaya as Mrs. World 2009.

For our Russian readers:

Россиянка Виктория Радочинская победила в финале престижного международного конкурса “Миссис мира — 2009”, который прошел вечером в воскресенье, 22 ноября, в южном вьетнамском городе Вунгтау.

В качестве награды 31-летней жительнице Ростова-на-Дону была вручена корона из белого золота, украшенная 63 рубинами, общей стоимостью около 100 тысяч долларов.

Второе и третье места по итогам конкурса жюри присудило представительницам США и Вьетнама. Всего за выход в финал “Миссис мира” боролись представительницы 76 государств и территорий мира.

Конкурс “Миссис мира”, который в этом году прошел в юбилейный 30-й раз, относится к числу главных мероприятий мировой фэшн-индустрии. При этом он представляет собой альтернативу многим другим конкурсам красоты, так как к участию в нем допускаются лишь замужние претендентки.

Нынешняя победительница — ростовчанка Виктория Радочинская — замужем уже девять лет и воспитывает сына Богдана, передает ИТАР-ТАСС.

Beer bad, vodka good!

It’s been just over a month since President Dmitry Medvedev ordered new restrictions on the sale of beer and similar beverages. The Russian president wants to do battle with Russia’s rampant alcoholism. Naturally of course a lot of questions have been raised about why vodka, Russia’s favourite recreational beverage, wasn’t targeted.

In October President Medvedev decided that it was time to take on Russia’s rampant alcoholism. On the president’s orders the government announced restrictions barring the sale of beer in cans or bottles larger than one-third of a liter. What is curious is that the new rules apply to ‘’light alcohol’’ beverages, but there is no mention of restricting the sales of wine, vodka or other hard liquors.

It’s probably not a secret that Russia is one of the world’s largest per-capita consumers of alcohol. The average Russian drinks 18 liters of alcohol a year.

The Lancet medical journal reported last month alcohol-related diseases caused around half of all deaths of Russians between the ages of 15 and 54 and the World Health Organization has said that Russians drink more than twice the amounts of alcohol of most other developed countries.

Apparently the WHO has never visited Mexico over spring break.