(Photo: Reuters/Sergei Karpov)
Three deadly bombings have rocked two of Russia's southern cities in the past four days, killing at least 34 people just six weeks before the country plans to host the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi.
A suicide bomber detonated an explosive device containing shrapnel on a public bus Monday morning in the southern city of Volgograd, killing at least 14 people and injuring over 30. This attack, which investigators are describing as a "terrorist act," comes one day after another suicide bomber detonated an explosive device at Volgograd's railway station, killing at least 17. Additionally, on Friday a car bomb killed three people in the southern Russian city of Pyatigorsk, 170 miles east of Sochi.
No group has taken responsibility for the two most recent attacks in Volgograd, but Vladimir Markin, a spokesman for the investigators covering the attacks, told media outlets that the shrapnel used in the two most recent explosive devices was "identical."
"That confirms the investigators' version that the two terror attacks were linked," Markin said in a statement. "They could have been prepared in one place."
The Volgograd attacks have sparked concern over the safety of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games being held in Sochi, Russia, located near the country's violent north Caucasus region. Daniel Sandford, the Moscow correspondent for BBC News, said that it was always risky to hold the games near the volatile republics of Chechnya and Dagestan.
Additionally, Steven Pifer of the Brookings Institution's Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Initiative told USA Today that terrorist groups near the north Caucasus region would be very tempted to attack the Sochi Olympics in February. "If you are a terrorist group in the Caucasus, the Sochi Olympics are going to be a very inviting target."
Russian President Vladimir Putin has not addressed the recent attacks publicly, but has ordered a federal committee to set up counterterrorism efforts in multiple Russian cities, including Volgograd, Reuters reports.
In response to the bombings, Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, released a statement calling the recent acts a "despicable attack on innocent people."
"I am certain that everything will be done to ensure the security of the athletes and all the participants of the Olympic Games," Bach continued.
"Sadly terrorism is a global disease but it must never be allowed to triumph. The Olympic Games are about bringing people from all backgrounds and beliefs together to overcome our differences in a peaceful way. The many declarations of support and solidarity from the international community make me confident that this message of tolerance will also be delivered by the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi."