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Putin breaks silence, condemns bombings

Security worries on rise ahead of Olympic Games

President Vladimir V. Putin promised to keep fighting terrorists following the deadly bomb attacks in Volgograd.

Vasily Fedosenko/Reuters

President Vladimir V. Putin promised to keep fighting terrorists following the deadly bomb attacks in Volgograd.

MOSCOW — President Vladimir V. Putin on Tuesday broke two days of silence on the twin bombings in Volgograd, calling them “inhumane terrorist acts” and vowing that Russia would continue to fight terrorists until “their complete destruction.”

On a day when the death toll from the attacks climbed to 34, Putin made his remarks during a New Year’s message that Russian and, before them, Soviet leaders have traditionally given on the country’s most celebrated holiday.

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The bombings have tempered official celebrations somewhat, especially in Volgograd, a city of 1 million in central Russia that has now endured three suicide bombings since October.

By Tuesday more than 5,000 extra interior troops had surged into the city, carrying out searches that resulted in dozens of detentions, though apparently not of anyone involved in the bombings.

The latest bombings — at Volgograd’s railroad station Sunday and aboard a trolley bus Monday — have heightened concerns about security here ahead of the Winter Olympics, which begin in less than six weeks in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, 400 miles from Volgograd.

Experts have warned that they could be a prelude to a campaign of terror by followers of Russia’s most-wanted militant, Doku Umarov, who in July vowed to disrupt the Olympics.

In his address, Putin mentioned Sochi only in passing, citing the coming task of hosting the games “at the highest level.” On the issue of terrorism, he resorted to the kind of forceful, if less coarse, language that first propelled him to the office when in 1999, as prime minister under President Boris Yeltsin, he vowed to hunt down terrorists and, if necessary, “waste them in the outhouse.”

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Fourteen years later, despite the end of the second war in Chechnya, Putin found himself vowing yet again to crush a threat that has spread across the North Caucasus.

“Dear friends, we bow our heads to the victims of violent terrorist attacks,” Putin said, pledging aid to the victims and reconstruction of the damaged buildings. “I am sure we will continue the fight against terrorists harshly and consistently until their complete destruction.”

Putin delivered his remarks during a previously unannounced visit to Khabarovsk, the capital of the region in the Far East that suffered significant flooding in 2013 that has left thousands of people still living in temporary shelters.

In referring to the challenges facing Russia, he included natural disasters like the flooding with the terrorist attacks in Volgograd. “In times of trial, Russia has always been united,” he said.

Putin initially recorded a holiday address that made no mention of the bombings. The video, which was prerecorded, showed him at the Kremlin. It appeared at midnight in Russia’s easternmost regions — Chukotka, Kamchatka, and Magadan — and promptly raised questions of whether he intended to continue to avoid the topic.

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