35 dead - and Moscow is back to business in hours
A strange mix of stoicism and indifference keeps Muscovites going in the face of tragedy
The heavily accented tannoy announcement rang round Domodedovo Airport in English at 10-minute intervals yesterday afternoon and evening: "The airport operates in a normal mode". Indeed it did.
Within a couple of hours of the suicide bomb that killed 35 and injured 180, people were boarding planes to London, Tashkent, Dubai, Phuket. It was business as usual just a few dozen metres away from the location of the huge explosion, which appears to have taken two Britons among its victims.
Russians are extraordinarily resilient when it comes to the kind of tragic incidents that would have a Heathrow terminal closed for days or weeks.
It's always the same. After last year's Moscow metro bombings, the affected stations were up and running again the same day, and the carriages packed with commuters. It's a strange mixture of stoicism and indifference which is at once admirable and just a touch scary.
Today, the hunt will start for the organisers of the attack. Nobody has yet claimed responsibility, though of course everyone's first thought is that the most likely culprits are the Islamic militants from the North Caucasus, who have been responsible for every other suicide bombing in Russia in recent years.
However, there are two curious factors here:
First, why the airport, and why the international section? True, Chechen terrorists have hardly been scrupulous before, taking theatre-goers and even schoolchildren hostage, but in recent years their attacks have been targeted, at least symbolically. Metro bombers last year hit at Lubyanka, the station below the headquarters of the FSB, Russia's security services.
Second, early reports suggest a man carrying a suitcase was the bomber, a departure from the 'Black Widows' – females with suicide belts – normally used by Chechen and other North Caucasus insurgents.
Despite these reservations, the most likely explanation is still to be found in the North Caucasus. Every day in places like Dagestan and Ingushetia – less in Chechnya itself now, though it does still happen – there are shoot-outs between militants and security forces, attacks on police and soldiers, and "special operations" to "liquidate" terrorists.
It's a low-grade war that doesn't often make it into the Western press, and even more rarely makes it onto Russian television screens, due to a mixture of state control and apathy among the population, both of which feed into each other.
If the bomber was an Islamist from the Caucasus, we can expect stepped-up military operations, and perhaps the capture of some key figures in the resistance movement, as there was after last year's bombings. Maybe this time the FSB will even take out Doku Umarov, self-styled Emir of the Caucasus and the nominal leader of the insurgents.
Whether that will help is debatable. Russia has been talking tough on the Caucasus for over a decade, but the terrorists show again and again that they can still strike in the heart of the country.
Moscow is extremely impressive when it comes to getting back on its feet after a terror attack, but less impressive when it comes to preventing them occurring in the first place. ·
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