POSTED: 3:45 a.m. HST, Jan 26, 2011
MOSCOW — In the wake of the deadly bombing of Russia's busiest airport, President Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday fired a top official of the country's transport police and lashed out at "passive" officers who guard the country's transport centers.
Medvedev, often criticized as hesitant or ineffectual, appears eager to assert that he's in control after Monday's attack that killed 35 people Monday at the capital's Domodedovo Airport.
He announced the firing shortly before leaving for the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where he aims to reassure elite figures of international business that Russia is a safe bet for their badly needed investment. The airport attack, generally believed to have been a suicide bombing, is likely to unsettle investors not only because it underlines Russia's persistent security problems, but because eight foreigners were killed in the attack.
The dead include two Austrian citizens, two Tajiks and one each from Britain, Germany, Ukraine and Uzbekistan, according to a revised list released by authorities.
The bombing also has demoralized many Russians, weary of years of separatist violence in Chechnya and other parts of the southern Caucasus region and of terrorist attacks attributed to the separatists, including last year's double suicide-bombing of the Moscow subway system in which 40 people were killed.
"It has already been happening for so many years and there is a feeling it will never end," said resident Inna Guliyants, who attended a service at Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral as part of the capital's official day of mourning for the bombing victims.
No claim of responsibility for the bombing has been made and investigators have not named suspects or even presented a consistent account of what happened. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, in a characteristically tough statement, on Tuesday vowed retribution for the attack, but it remains unclear against whom.
Russian news media. generally citing unnamed sources, have variously portrayed the bombing as conducted by a man or a woman or a couple and that the bomb was either strapped to one of them or in a suitcase.
Medvedev did not specify the reasons for dismissing Maj. Gen.. Andrei Alexeyev, head of the transport police for the Russian region that includes Moscow. But he did criticize transport police in general.
"The police that are at the large transport centers, in airports, at railway stations, take an absolutely passive position," he said.
Also Wednesday, the chief of the transport police division at Moscow's Domodedovo Airport and two officers were fired by Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev.
In the wake of the bombing, Medvedev initially criticized the airport's security forces. But Domodedovo's management objected, saying transport police were responsible for guarding access to the airport area where Monday's blast occurred.
Although there has been no claim of responsibility for the bombing, suspicion has fallen on Islamist separatists from Chechnya or elsewhere in the restive Caucasus region who have been battling Russian authority for over 15 years.
Some reports have suggested a connection with the Nogai Brigade, an insurgent group in the Stavropol region of southern Russia.