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The Bad Old Days

The BBC provides an updated report: Russia train crash ’caused by bomb’

The Nevsky Express derailed with nearly 700 on board as it ran through remote countryside between the capital Moscow and the second city, St Petersburg.

Investigators found “elements of an explosive device” at the scene of Friday’s attack, a statement said.

Officials said a second, less powerful device went off on Saturday near the site of the first, but no-one was hurt.

There was no immediate confirmed claim of responsibility for the blast on Friday evening, which hit a train popular with government officials and business executives at peak travel time.

“Criminology experts say, on the basis of preliminary information, that an improvised explosive device, equivalent to 7kg (15 lb) of TNT, had gone off,” said Alexander Bortnikov, head of Russia’s domestic intelligence service.

There is apparently a crater and explosives residue at the scene, as well as the report of the engineer and several passengers that a bomb went off. A second device went off about 18 hours later after trains were routed by on parallel lines.  Probably caused by the same type of device.

The reported death toll has reached 39, and there will probably be senior government and business officials among the dead and injured, as this was an expensive, high-speed express train hit on a Friday evening.

There is a standard signaling device used by railroads that attaches to the track and causes a bang to alert the train crew of problems up ahead. That device, or something similar, was probably used to detonate the explosives. If the explosives were designed to blow out the support for the rail, that would explain why the front of the train passed over, deforming the weakened track, which finally caused the end of the train to derail.  This type of attack was quite common against railroads in occupied France during World War II, and the “how-to” is found in numerous books about the war.


1 Badtux { 11.28.09 at 10:19 pm }

Russia is far more dependent upon their rail system than most nations, because their winters do a real number on paved highways. Rail systems are a soft target. One reason Ike liked the Interstate highway system is because it’s a much more dispersed target — if you take out a bus you could kill a few dozen people max, but you can’t take out 500+ people that way like in the Ufa train disaster. Somebody doesn’t like the Russians suddenly, and it will be interesting to find out who. I had thought that Kadyrov in Chechnya had things well under control there, he’s one evil venal SOB (on the other hand the rebels blew his daddy up so he’s got a right to be one evil venal SOB) but this makes a penguin question assumptions…

– Badtux the Geopolitical Penguin
.-= last blog ..World’s biggest liar loan =-.

2 Bryan { 11.28.09 at 11:26 pm }

The FSB [new and improved KGB] mentioned rightwing neoNazi groups as well as the usual suspects from the North Caucasus which leads me to believe that they have been suspecting that the groups were going to do something. Chechens are under tight control inside Russia proper and generally stay in the large cities where they can hide. This would be a lot easier to arrange for someone who worked on the railroad and/or was an ethnic Russian.

We’ll have to wait to see if anyone lays claim to this, although a Chechen group might just for the “glory”. The skinheads have been getting nasty in Moscow, and other cities and were usually ignored by authorities as a nuisance only for non-Russians. This was an attack on the elites, so someone is going to pay, and quickly.

3 Badtux { 11.28.09 at 11:40 pm }

Russia being Russia, the people who pay will probably be everybody within a wide radius of whoever did it. The phrase “collateral damage” apparently doesn’t exist in the FSB policy manual ;).

4 Bryan { 11.28.09 at 11:50 pm }

I assume they will certainly be guilty of being in the area and unloved by local officials. Sometime after they are sentenced, the FSB with figure out who actually did it, and then some people will disappear. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

I would imagine that Putin rides that train, as he is from St. Petersburg, so the heat is on to arrest someone. Alas, friend Vladimir is not apt to be satisfied with possible criminals, having been KGB, so he will probably be avoiding the train for a while.

5 jams O'Donnell { 11.29.09 at 10:24 am }

I wonder if Putin’s little thug Ramzam Kadyrov will be using “minimum force” in Chechnya
.-= last blog ..For contrast here’s Speaking in Tongues =-.

6 Bryan { 11.29.09 at 2:10 pm }

I think we can assume that a number of Chechens will be “asked to assist the police with their inquiries” after being scooped up off the street.

This device sounds more “bespoke” that “improvised”, a specific device for a special job with a custom detonator, a one meter crater isn’t unusual for a Russian road, so it would only be effective on a rail line for derailing a train.