VOA NEWS – Daniel Schearf
Hours after a blast tore through a St. Petersburg subway car Monday, Russian authorities were searching for those responsible. The Russian news service Interfax said two suspects were being sought.
St. Petersburg’s subway system was shut down after the explosion, which Russia’s Health Ministry says 10 people were killed and injured nearly 50 injured, six of them in critical condition. In Moscow, authorities ramped up security for the subway system there.
Images on social media from St. Petersburg showed a set of carriage doors blown out and twisted from the blast with a number of casualties lying on the platform. Video from the scene showed passengers moving through a station clouded with smoke.
Officials were cautious not to conclude terrorism too quickly but said the explosion was being investigated as a possible act of terrorism. Russia media reported it was an intentional bombing.
The Interfax news agency quoted unnamed sources saying the blast was caused by a bomb filled with shrapnel and that surveillance cameras may have captured images of the suspect and a briefcase holding the explosive.
“When we were climbing out of the train carriage — it collapsed, all of it, everything just went black,” one commuter said.
“It had actually started to fall apart as we were approaching the station. I just thought oh God, please let us reach the station.
“And then when I looked back there were huge number of people lying on the floor.”
A second device was found and disabled. The subway system was closed down and officials declared three days of mourning.
Unlike previous incidents of suspected terrorism, Russian state media were quick to report details of the blast in Saint Petersburg.
“They learned a lesson which is precisely by not covering stories all they end up doing is actually as it were, handing the narrative to rumor, gossip, and Twitter,” says Galeotti. “By actually reporting quickly and reporting fairly and honestly actually what they do is they slightly tamp down potential panic and they sort of make sure that people are not automatically assuming that they’re not being told most of the story.”
The blast comes as President Vladimir Putin, who is from Saint Petersburg, is visiting the city and met with Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko.
“Definitely it could be connected because his presence there got a lot of media coverage,” says Kortunov. “And, I think that though terrorists cannot target the president directly but, it is clearly a message for the president of the Russian Federation if it indeed was a terrorist attack.”