Image: Dmitry Medvedev
Vladimir Rodionov  /  AP
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has fired a top official of the country's transport police in the wake of a deadly bombing at Russia's busiest airport.
updated 1/26/2011 1:56:00 PM ET 2011-01-26T18:56:00

President Dmitry Medvedev fired a federal transport police chief Wednesday and lashed out at "passive" officers who guard Russia's airports and rail stations after an airport suicide bombing killed 35 people.

Medvedev, often criticized as hesitant or ineffectual, appeared eager to assert his power after Monday's attack at Moscow's Domodedovo Airport, which also left 180 people wounded.

He announced the firing shortly before leaving for the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where he was determined to reassure world business leaders that Russia was a safe bet for their badly needed investment.

Medvedev began his address in Davos by accusing the airport bomber of trying to "bring Russia to its knees" and prevent him from attending the high-profile forum.

The airport attack, generally believed to have been a suicide bombing, was likely to unsettle investors not only because it underlines Russia's persistent security problems but because eight foreigners were killed in the attack.

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The dead include two Austrian citizens, two Tajiks and one person each from Britain, Germany, Ukraine and Uzbekistan, according to a revised list.

The bombing also has demoralized many Russians, weary of years of separatist violence in Chechnya and other parts of the southern Caucasus region and of terrorist attacks attributed to the separatists, including last year's double suicide-bombing of the Moscow subway system in which 40 people were killed.

"It has already been happening for so many years and there is a feeling it will never end," said resident Inna Guliyants, who attended a service at Christ the Savior Cathedral, part of the capital's official day of mourning.

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The victims also were remembered at Domodedovo Airport, where many people came to lay flowers near the blast site. Among them was U.S. Ambassador John Beyrle, who expressed Americans' sympathies in remarks shown on Russian television.

"We share the sorrow of the families of those who were injured and killed," Beyrle said. "And we are in solidarity with you that there should be no refuge for those who are able to commit, to organize such a monstrous crime against innocent people."

In Brussels, the NATO-Russia Council said its 29 countries "stand together in the fight against terrorism, and we are determined to expedite our efforts to counter this scourge."

No claim of responsibility for the bombing has been made and investigators have not named suspects or even presented a consistent account of what happened. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, in a characteristically tough statement, on Tuesday vowed retribution for the attack.

That uncertainty continued Wednesday when Putin said "according to preliminary information, this terrorist act isn't related to the Chechen Republic."

Chechnya, however, is only one of several contiguous Russian republics with insurgents. In recent years, Dagestan has seen the most frequent separatist-connected bloodshed. Putin might also be eager not to remind Russians of his yearslong failure in subduing Islamist separatists.

Russian news media have variously portrayed the bombing as conducted by a man or a woman or a couple and reported that the bomb was either strapped to one of them or in a suitcase.

Medvedev did not specify his reasons for dismissing Maj. Gen. Andrei Alexeyev, head of the transport police for much of western Russia, including Moscow. But he did criticize transport police in general.

"The police that are at the large transport centers, in airports, at railway stations, take an absolutely passive position," he said.

Also Wednesday, the chief of the transport police division at Domodedovo Airport and two officers were fired by the interior minister.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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