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Officials blame insurgency; public complains about security

by at 25/01/2011 12:39

In the aftermath of Monday’s Domodedovo blast, public opinion seems to put the blame on poor security as much as on the bombers.

Amid rumours that the police had advance warning of the suicide blast even President Medvedev called for an investigation into the application of airport security laws.

Russia’s Audit Chamber has already announced that it would investigate the effectiveness of spending significant budget money on security in the first half of the year, its head Sergei Stepashin told Interfax.


The Caucasus thread

While there is no official confirmation, most experts are pointing the finger at North Caucasus terrorists as organisers of the attack.

And government officials even tried to suggest that the deadly bombing was a back-handed tribute to the “effective work of law-enforcement in the North Caucasus”, as Magomed Vakhayev, deputy head of the state Duma security committee, told Kommersant.

Vakhayev appears to be a lone optimist, however, with his colleague on that committee Gennady Gudkov warning that: “There are queues of suicide bombers ready to blow themselves up.”

“They think security can be increased by increasing checkpoints and passport control, constant searching, but it is not so. The main thing is the agents’ network, and it has failed,” he told Kommersant.

He also wondered about reported successes in North Caucasus, saying that “success demoralizes the opponent,” but it is nowhere to be seen.


Blame the authorities

Many experts are saying law-enforcement and Domodedovo’s management should be held responsible for not preventing the attack.

“The terrorists could see what a mess there was in Domodedovo before the New Year, and chose it as their target because of that,” advisor to Constitutional court head, former head of Russian Interpol bureau general-major in retirement Vladimir Ovchinsky told the daily.


Laissez-faire attitude

Moscovsky Komsomolets laments the sloppy attitude to security and the officials’ laissez-faire approach to protecting the lives of ordinary citizens.

They write that while the metal detectors in the airport were installed in 2004 after explosions on the planes, after about a year of thorough work, they became just a decoration.

“In the last few years they have not checked anyone. The metal detectors and scanners were switched off, and anyone could walk into the airport building,” Yulia Kalinina writing for MK said.

The same is true about metal detectors in cinemas, shopping malls, concert halls, and other places that could attract terrorists.

Despite the “stabilisation and liquidation of all the gangs in Chechnya,” something is blown up once a year, to say nothing of endless terrorist attacks in the North Caucasus, “that in Moscow no one really pays attention to”.

“There is no end to these attacks, because no steps that could end them are taken,” Kalinina concludes


Security is not to blame

But in Vedomosti a security expert speaks up in defence of the authorities.

Arkady Livshits, head of the Arly Spetstechnika company which develops and markets security kit, said it would be impossible to launch legal action against the airport.

And he adds that there is no viable way to completely eradicate the threat of attack in any place where large groups of people gather.


Heightened security during the day

However, eye-witnesses say that there were some signs of increased security at Domodedovo before the attack – lending weight to claims that the authorities had some advance intelligence of the blast.

Passengers that arrived from Sochi told Komsomolskaya Pravda that they were asked to walk through a metal detector and were all searched on arrival to Domodedovo, which is very unusual for any flights.

It has never happened before,” said Alexander, who regularly took that flight from Sochi, and not once was searched on arrival.


Slow response

Russian TV viewers would have been among the last to hear of the tragedy, however.

Major free-to-air channels Channel 1, NTV and Rossiya-1 had no coverage of the blast until after 6 pm, even though it happened at 4:30.

Anna Kachkayeva, head of the TV and radio deparment at the journalism faculty of Moscow State University, complained that Russian TV was "hopelessly behind" and simply lacked the technology and expertise to provide news coverage without accompanying images, RIA Novosti reported.

She added that the news services of major national broadcasters - which are state-owned or controlled by leading state companies such as Gazprom - were not ready to provide professional reporting of breaking news events.

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