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In the wake of two deadly bombings that have renewed security fears ahead of the Sochi Olympics, Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed to fight the terrorists believed to be responsible for those attacks until their “total annihilation.”
In his first public comments since the Volgograd bombings Sunday and Monday that left 34 people dead, Putin said in his New Year’s Eve address: “We bow our heads in memory of the victims of these terrible attacks. We will strongly and decisively continue the battle against terrorists until their total annihilation.”
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His comments were broadcast as the first funerals took place for the victims of the bombings, which also wounded 100 people.
In the somber televised address to a nation facing its grimmest New Year’s celebrations in many years, Putin also reminded Russians that the nation is resilient.
“In the past year we have faced problems and serious challenges, including the inhuman terror attacks and unprecedented [natural] disasters in the Far East,” he said.
The bombings at Volgograd’s main railway station on Sunday and in a bus packed with students going to their last college classes on Monday have renewed concerns about security at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, which militants have vowed to target. Sochi is roughly 400 miles from Volgograd.
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Although no group has claimed responsibility for the Volgograd bombings, Islamist leader Doku Umarov is believed to be behind them. Earlier this year, he warned that in the run up to the Winter Olympics, Russian citizens would not be safe from terrorist attacks.
The attacks in Volgograd — a ciity venerated throughout Russia as the wartime city of Stalingrad that witnessed the historic battle that was the turning point in the Red Army’s struggle against the invading Nazi armies — have left Russia reeling.
Three days of mourning were announced in the city and some have suggested the entire country should forego the traditional New Year celebrations, Russia’s major winter holiday equivalent to Christmas and Thanksgiving, when families gather to eat and drink together in a celebration that runs through Jan. 10.
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The somber mood was evident in altered TV schedules. Television channels were toning down their entertainment; popular show Laughter is Allowed was the first to be axed.
In St. Petersburg, meanwhile, authorities announced that they were canceling festivities.
For ordinary Russians, the location and timing of the bombings has left the holidays, the upcoming New Year and approaching Winter Olympics under a dark cloud, although they remain characteristically stoic.
One woman, Nadezhda Vladimirovna, 41, a Moscow mother and office manager, told The Hollywood Reporter: “Supermarkets are crowded with shoppers with food, vodka, wine and champagne. Fireworks are going off everywhere. Russia is huge and something is happening all the time; people got used to it and do not take tragedy too deeply or personally, although I myself feel as if someone in my house is very sick and it spoils the New Year mood.”
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