Neo-Nazis claim responsibility for terrorist attack on Russian train
Friday’s crash of a Russian express train between Moscow and Saint Petersburg was caused by a terrorist attack. The Russian Prosecutor-General and the Russian secret service say remnants of explosives have been found at the scene of the tragedy. The Echo of Moscow radio station reports that the neo-Nazi organization Combat 18 has claimed responsibility for the incident. However, analysts contacted by other Russian media say the neo-Nazi claim is not credible and may just be a publicity attempt.
Sources vary on the number of those left dead and injured after part of the train derailed. Initial estimates range from 26 – 39 killed and 60 – 96 injured, but the final figures are expected to be higher. The Czech and Slovak representations in Moscow say that so far there seem to have been no Czech or Slovak citizens among the dead or injured.
On Friday night, Russian rail management hypothesized the accident might have been caused by a bomb on the tracks. Yesterday afternoon, Reuters reported that Russian secret service head Alexandr Bortnikov had confirmed to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that the accident had been caused by a bomb. The explosion is said to have been caused by the equivalent of seven kilograms of TNT.
Sources cited by the RIA Novosti agency say the Nevsky Express accident was caused by an explosion beneath the ninth of its 13 cars. Interfax reports that the four cars at the end of the train derailed after the explosion and one car was completely demolished. Many of the dozens hospitalized after the accident are said to be seriously injured.
Russian Railways Director Vladimir Yakunin said that yesterday afternoon another, weaker bomb exploded at almost exactly the same location. No one was killed or injured and nothing was damaged.
About 1 000 people, including emergency medical services personnel and police officers, intervened at the accident site late Friday night and early Saturday morning. Russian authorities announced that the clearing work was completed during the evening hours and that the main workload now lies with doctors treating the wounded.
Police have shut down access to the scene of the tragedy and started searching for suspects in the neighborhood. Yesterday evening the Russian Interior Ministry announced it suspected several persons of the attack but did not specify their identities except to say that one is a male around 40 years old.
The Nevsky Express, which runs on one of the main Russian lines from Moscow to Saint Petersburg, derailed into the forest in terrain that is difficult to access. The accident occurred between the villages of Lykoshino and Uglovka, about 25 km from the Bologoye train stop, near the administrative border between the Novgorod and Tversk regions of the Russian Federation.
AP reports that at the moment of the accident there were around 630 passengers and 20 crew members on board. Even though the Czech and Slovak representations in Russia do not have complete information about the passengers, yesterday a Czech Foreign Ministry spokesperson confirmed that none of the victims are likely to be Czech.
"We are determining this, we have contacted the Russian authorities, but for the time being we do not have any such information available,” Hynek Pejcha, chargé d'affaires at the Czech Embassy told ČTK. “We have contacted the Russian authorities and according to them, no Slovak citizens are among the injured or dead passengers who have been identified,” Slovak Consul Otília Kállayová told ČTK.
In Russia, passengers must show their passports when purchasing train tickets, so the authorities do have passenger lists available. The Vesti 24 television station reported that foreigners were among the passengers. Interfax reported that three foreigners were injured on the train, one from Azerbaijan, one from Belgium, and one from Italy. The Italian Foreign Ministry has confirmed that an Italian citizen was injured.
President Medvedev is involved in the case and summoned an extraordinary meeting of selected ministers to review the accident. He expressed his condolences to the victims’ families and arranged for the appropriate authorities to provide immediate aid to those affected and to investigate the accident as quickly as possible.
Condolences over the accident were sent to Moscow by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Polish PM Donald Tusk, the Swedish EU presidency, Ukrainian PM Yulia Tymoshenko, and the White House. Czech PM Jan Fischer also sent a telegram of condolence to Russian PM Vladimir Putin.
A train derailed on the same line two years ago on 13 August 2007. At the time the cause of the accident was also said to have been an explosion on the tracks. About 60 people were injured and the incident was said to be a terrorist attack. The Novgorod Prosecutor said at the time that a group controlled by Doku Umarov, Chechnya’s most famous terrorist, had exploded the bomb. The case is now before the court and the two defendants face up to 20 years in jail.
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