West uses `double standards' in viewing attacks, Putin says

He seeks recognition of threats facing Russia

Reaction In Russia

Bombings In London

July 08, 2005|By Douglas Birch | Douglas Birch,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

MOSCOW - Russia's sympathy for the victims of the London bombings was tinged with bitterness yesterday, as Kremlin officials said Western nations refuse to recognize that Russia, too, is facing dangerous enemies.

Speaking from the Group of Eight summit in Scotland, Russian President Vladimir V. Putin deplored the attacks but criticized the West for what he called "double standards" in its assessment of assaults on civilian targets here and abroad.

"An enormous crime has been committed in London today," Putin said. Because Russia has "repeatedly experienced terrorist acts, brutal and bloody, which have taken the lives of hundreds of our innocent citizens," he added, nowhere in the world was their more sympathy for victims of yesterday's explosions.

But the West, he said, clings to "double standards in the assessment of bloody crimes." He was referring to the way Europe and the United States regard attacks by Chechens and their allies on civilian targets here as part of a local separatist struggle, rather than a broader assault by Islamic extremists against Western interests.

Russian leaders and commentators also took the opportunity yesterday to criticize Britain's refusal to extradite Akhmed Zakayev, an envoy for the Chechen separatist government.

"Terrorists must be caught and brought to justice everywhere, including the United Kingdom, which, to our mind, sometimes gives them asylum," said Russian Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin, according to the Interfax news service.

Many Russians were shocked. "Of course it is just terrifying, because this happened to innocent people," said Svetlana Sharatova, a 45-year-old construction engineer. "I have great sympathy for the British who suffered."

But others, in radio interviews and on Internet sites, expressed frustrations with the British. The reaction was in marked contrast to September 2001, when Putin and many others here expressed unreserved support for the United States.

The Moscow subway has been the target of two bombings in the past 18 months. In February 2004, a blast ripped through a subway car passing under the Moscow River at rush hour, killing 30 and injuring 70 others. Last August, a woman blew herself up outside a north Moscow subway station, killing 10 and injuring more than 50.

Yesterday, subway authorities increased patrols of platforms and passageways, and stepped up document checks. Police have been stationed at all subway entrances for about 1 1/2 years, but are seldom seen using their handheld metal detectors.

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