VOLGOGRAD, Russia -- Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday made a pre-dawn visit to the city reeling from two suicide bombings this week, bringing gestures of sympathy for the victims and questions for the officials he has ordered to beef up security.
The bombings at the main railway
station of Volgograd and on a city trolleybus killed 34 people and wounded
scores, 65 of whom are hospitalized.
"Whatever motivated the criminals' actions, there's no justification for committing crimes against civilians, especially against women and children," Putin said, opening a meeting in Volgograd with the heads of the Federal Security Service and the Interior Ministry.
He said he would ask the two officials in the closed-door session for details on what measures their agencies are taking to raise security in the country.
Afterward, Putin placed a bouquet on
the pile of flowers, balloons and other commemorative items that has risen at
the site of the trolleybus bombing, and then visited a hospital where some of
the wounded are being treated.
Volgograd, a city of about 1 million, has been under heavy security since the Sunday and Monday attacks. Police reinforcements and paramilitary troops were sent into the city.
As part of the tightened security, police and sniffer dogs have checked some 2,700 residential buildings, along with bus stations, parking lots and other structures, the city's police department said, according to the ITAR-Tass news agency.
In the course of the inspections, police seized about 25 pounds of narcotics and seized more than 100 illegal firearms, according to the report. However there have been no reports of any arrests connected to the bombings.
City authorities canceled public New
Year's Eve gatherings and have closed movie theaters until Thursday.
"I think everyone now needs to be even more concerned about the terrorist threat that has reached the Russian heartland and is growing closer not only to the Sochi Olympics but is also affecting the transportation hubs that are so important to the Olympics," said CBS News national security analyst Juan Zarate, a former Bush Administration national security adviser.
Suicide bombings have rocked Russia for years, but the insurgents seeking to create an Islamic state have largely confined their attacks to the North Caucasus region in recent years. The blasts in Volgograd signaled that militants want to show their reach outside their native region. Volgograd is about 200 miles north of the Caucasus and about 430 miles northeast of Sochi.