A bomb exploded on a Moscow subway car Tuesday, killing four people, wounding 12 others and ratcheting up fears of widening political violence just five days before high-stakes presidential elections Sunday.
Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, emerging from the smoke-filled tunnel where he had been watching rescue operations, called the blast “one more terrorist act in a chain of terrorist acts, which are connected to this pre-election period.”
He said that security forces had found another bomb on a busy ring road encircling the Russian capital some 12 hours earlier but had been able to defuse it. Friday, the mayor’s deputy was severely injured when a bomb exploded as he left his Moscow apartment building.
“The goal of these terrorists is to complicate or make it impossible to hold elections - to create chaos,” Luzhkov said. “I can’t make any other evaluation.”
Luzhkov is a close ally of President Boris Yeltsin, who faces a strong Communist candidate and eight other challengers in a tough race for a second term.
In recent days, Yeltsin’s campaign aides have repeatedly warned that the Communists and their ultranationalist allies were planning to disrupt the elections or create disturbances if their candidate, Gennady Zyuganov, doesn’t win.
“They might create an incident and then try to provoke the security forces into some overreaction,” Sergei Filatov, head of Yeltsin’s campaign, said earlier this week.
He said the government would be tripling the number of soldiers, Interior Ministry troops, police officers and other security forces patrolling Russian cities, during the election period.
The Communists, in turn, have said Yeltsin can win only through fraud and accuse the Kremlin of planning disturbances to create a pretext for postponing or canceling the elections.
When Luzhkov deputy Valery Shantsev was injured in a bomb attack last week, the mayor accused one of Zyuganov’s campaign coalition partners, the orthodox Communist Party of a notorious extremist named Viktor Anpilov.