Attack in St. Petersburg metro

The explosion in the St. Petersburg metro in which at least eleven people were killed and dozens wounded has sparked international consternation. Commentators focus in particular on Russia's domestic situation and discuss whether Putin will be weakened or strengthened by the attack.

Open/close all quotes
Adevărul (RO) /

Mainstays of Putin's power crumbling

Things will get dangerous for Putin if he can no longer guarantee security in Russia, writes author Vasile Ernu in his blog with Adevărul:

“Putin is not afraid of terrorist attacks but of the political consequences of such attacks. They can be devastating. Why? Since 2015 one of the mainstays of the Putin regime's power has been crumbling: a prosperous Russia. Oil prices have plummeted, the West has imposed an economic embargo and even the Kremlin is learning what it's like to have to get along with less money. The population continues to demand prosperity. … But now a second mainstay threatens to collapse: a secure and stable Russia. When an explosion goes off in Russia's second-largest city and Putin just happens to be there at the time, it sends a strong message. The adventure in Syria is backfiring like a boomerang and stands for the fact that Putin can no longer even guarantee security.”

Pravda (SK) /

Terrorists' motives are no longer rational

Russia has become a target of international terrorism which it won't be able to conquer on its own, Pravda suspects:

“The attacks in Russia in the first decade of the new millennium in which innocent people died were terrible and despicable. But they were carried out for a traditional motive: making Russia leave Chechnya. But since then everything has changed. Attacks like those in St. Petersburg are not just terrible and despicable acts. Those who fought for national independence have been replaced by religious fanatics. Their motives can no longer be rationally explained. These people simply want to spread fear and hatred. It is crucial to find out who the attackers' contacts were. Most attackers in Europe have not acted alone. Some were radicalised in Syria. No one knows how many Russians have gone there and then returned to Russia. This is one reason more to remember that global terror can only be defeated through global cooperation.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

Russia was already feeling insecure

The return of terror to Russia comes at a difficult time for Moscow, the Süddeutsche Zeitung comments:

“For the Russian leadership the investigation into the attack in St. Petersburg is particularly challenging because it comes at a time when political Moscow is already feeling more insecure than it did a few months ago. Last week's nationwide demonstrations put the state to the test less than a year before the presidential elections. For a leadership that claims control in all matters, all this adds up. But at least the attack in St. Petersburg could bring about improved relations with the West. If both sides are victims, this could result in increased solidarity in the fight against terror.”

Ilkka (FI) /

Putin will intensify repression

Vladimir Putin could benefit politically from the attack in St. Petersburg, Ilkka argues:

“There's no need to speculate endlessly about the immediate consequences of yesterday's bomb attack in the St. Petersburg metro. ... The explosion will no doubt lead to a curtailment of civil rights and a stronger presence of police and military in public places and the Russians' everyday lives. Russia's stability and security have been badly shaken. The security forces are expected to restore stability. ... For all its tragedy, the attack in St. Petersburg comes just at the right time for Putin. A common enemy, terrorism, is uniting the Russians and putting other domestic problems and the opposition's growing criticism of the president on the back burner.”

Lidové noviny (CZ) /

Authoritarian regimes don't offer more security

Lidové noviny warns against refusing to show sympathy with Russia:

“Russian victims are not second-class in comparison to those in the West or in the Middle East. One should remember that on September 11, 2001, Putin was the first foreign statesman to offer his condolences. ... Russia has not been affected by such threats in recent years. You have to look back as far as March 2010 for a similar attack in a large Russian city, namely the attack in the Moscow metro. Although we can't yet draw definitive conclusions from yesterday's blast, it's the first explosion in the heart of Russia since Putin turned his back on the West. Among other things this era was supposed to demonstrate that an authoritarian regime provides more security than the liberal West. Clearly, that can no longer be claimed. This is not a cry of victory but a simple statement of fact.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

The revenge of the jihadists

Diplomat Roberto Toscano suspects in La Repubblica that the IS is taking revenge on Putin with the attack:

“From Crimea to Syria, Putin has shown that Russia counts, that Russia cannot be excluded - on the contrary, it continues to be a major power. Its cool, resolute revanchist strategy has been successful so far. … But as the Americans know all too well, you pay a high price for wanting to be a superpower. Now the question is no longer just to what extent these ambitions are financially viable but also how much one is willing to expose oneself. You become the target of those who are fighting against the leaders or those who want to punish the ones in charge with an act of revenge, particularly when they themselves are facing imminent defeat. Today it is Putin who is seen as the main enemy of jihadism. Far more than Trump, who is even more hesitant and full of contradictions than Obama was.”