Russian President Vladimir Putin has flown to Volgograd, the scene of two suicide bombing attacks that killed 34 people, to meet people caught in the blast and pay tribute to those who died.
Putin met local and federal Russian officials to discuss the security situation in the country.
In a televised speech, he said: “The heinousness of the crime committed here in Volgograd needs no additional comments.”
“No matter what motivates the criminals, there is no justification for the killing of civilians, especially women and children,” he added.
He said that Russian forces “do their utmost to protect women and children during their operations.”
The first attack took place at Volgograd’s busy main railway station on Sunday last week. The second bomb was detonated on a crowded trolleybus during the morning rush hour on Monday.
After the meeting, Putin laid flowers at the site of the trolleybus attack and visited a hospital where some of the injured people have been taken.
Russian television channels showed him offering words of reassurance to the patients and asking doctors whether the hospital was sufficiently equipped to cope with the number of people injured.
Following the two deadly blasts, the Russian authorities launched a major security sweep in Volgograd, targeting underground jihadist cells and sympathizers of radical Islamist movements.
Putin’s visit to Volgograd was reminiscent of a similar dash he made to Chechnya on Jan. 1, 2000 — his first day as Russian leader after former Russian president Boris Yeltsin announced his resignation the day before.
At that time, he visited troops besieging Grozny in an apparent show of confidence after a series of devastating bombing attacks on apartment blocks in Moscow and other Russian cities.
This year, Putin had to record his traditional new year TV address to the Russian people a second time to include mention of the Volgograd blasts.
However, in what his spokesman described as a technical error, viewers in Russia’s easternmost time zone, which covers Kamchatka and Sakhalin, watched the old, upbeat address seemingly recorded before the attacks.