The city of Volgograd is trying to cope with fear and tension following twin blasts that so far have claimed the lives of 34 people. To enhance security for New Year’s celebrations, nationwide counter-terrorism measures have been taken.
Over 4,000 police and Interior Ministry troops are involved in security activities, with more than 260 search groups and 142 investigative squads operating in Volgograd alone.
Places of mass gatherings, including malls and transport hubs are constantly under police watch, with additional patrols placed across the city. Almost everyone is being asked to show their IDs as part of increased security measures. At least eighty-seven people were taken to police stations for refusing to obey police orders.
In the meantime, Volgograd is burying the first of its dead, with two people scheduled to be buried on Tuesday, both under 30 years old. Three more funerals have been planned so far for Wednesday.
“He was a good man, a good father, a good son, a good grandson. There are not so many of such good ones around. The good ones die first, they say,” Vladimir Nalivayko, the father of one of the railway blast’s victims, told RT, barely withholding tears. His son was a security guard at the train station.
“I saw how it all happened on the video footage. He was standing by the railing doing the security check. And then there was a man coming in, and he just barely made it toward him, and then there was a blast, and it was over. And no more footage. I didn't get to see anything else. He stopped that man who was trying to get through the security gate, as he had to. Yes, that's what the camera showed. That's how it was. I saw it myself. I saw him doing his job, smiling. Maybe it had to be this way. He did what he had to, that was his duty," he said.
The second blast in the trolleybus, which happened just hours after the first one, left 16 people killed. RT spoke with one of those who survived the tragedy: a woman who was carried out of the vehicle.
“I was deafened by the blast,” she told RT. “We had almost reached the bus stop when the explosion went off. It was like an electric shock all over my body. I can’t remember, I didn’t see anyone, I was sitting and looking out of the window when it happened.”
The regional authorities agreed to pay for all the victims’ funeral expenses and allocated over 100 million rubles ($3 million) for families of the dead and wounded victims of the two Volgograd explosions.
Despite false reports later Monday about a possible new blast, the atmosphere in Volgograd is one of tension rather than panic.
“There's no panic in the city but people try to stay at home, tend to not to go to work,” Volgograd resident Vasily Varlamov, 23, wrote in RT’s comment page.
“It terrifies that those places where explosions happened are regular places that we go to, I mean, I regularly take this trolleybus route to go to my friends, a lot of people do, so you can not feel secure anymore,” Varlamov added.
In an update, he said that the city has lost all sense of security.
“I am a bit worried to write that the city lives its regular life now, as I don't know what to expect tomorrow. We are just scared a bit because of what could happen tomorrow, but for now we are all right,” Varlamov wrote.
Citing his friend’s experience, Varlamov quoted him as saying; “I started to feel fear. I was scared to go out. Scared because the authorities work mostly on the protection of the regional and federal level apparatus. I don't feel protected. I think there could be another explosion."
Vera Chernova, another Volgograd resident, said that children were “frightened” and in “tears” when she rushed to daycare to pick up her child.
Chernova says that on the way home her daughter’s friend said that she has asked for many things from Father Frost, Russia’s version of Santa Claus, to which another child replied, “Hey, we’re foolish, we asked Father Frost for useless things – we should have asked him for life.”
Meanwhile people across Russia and especially Volgograd are lining up to donate blood for the victims, with 550 people lining up to give blood in the city.
Ekaterina Simohina, a local correspondent in Volgograd, says that blood transfusion centers have up to 200 people lining up out the door.
“About blood donor center - one of those was so full of blood that it stopped accepting it. When I came there I was so surprised of how many people were there, I couldn't believe it. It took me 4 hours to get entrance to this special room,”Varlamov writes.
The Russian Health Ministry confirmed that there’s no shortage of blood in Volgograd hospitals where more than 100 people are getting treated.
Throughout the night, people continued to bring flowers to the scene of both blasts. Even the Ukrainians are paying respects to the victims of the Volgograd bombings by bringing flowers and candles to Kiev’s Independence Square.
Security measures have been increased across Russia during the holiday season. And as the country prepares to host the Sochi Olympic Games, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has expressed confidence that Russia will keep the Games “safe and secure.”