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Chechen shadow looms on election-eve

Moscow, Dec. 5 (Reuters): Chechnya cast its shadow over Russia’s impending elections when a suspected suicide bomber killed 36 people on a Russian train near the rebel region today, just two days before the vote.

The attack caused fury in Moscow, where President Vladimir Putin called it “an attempt to detabilise the country on the eve of parliamentary elections”. A top minister vowed to hunt down those responsible, calling them “animals” and saying authorities would make the ground ”burn under their feet”.

The blast struck a packed commuter train outside Yessentuki station in Russia’s southern fringe, ahead of polls that Putin’s allies are fighting on a strong law and order platform.

It could push the Chechnya issue, which has so far played little role in the campaign, onto the election agenda.

No officials explicitly linked the explosion to Chechen rebels, fighting Moscow for independence for the last 10 years, but any suggestion of their involvement is more likely to boost the pro-Kremlin vote than erode it. The rebels have increasingly resorted to suicide bombings in Chechnya and the Russian heartland, often carried out by female relatives of men killed by Russian forces.

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