. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

After the Blast, Candidates Fire Barbs of Blame

Even before bombs began to explode in downtown Moscow, Russia's politicians were trading nasty accusations. Now, with the first round of presidential elections only days away, they have sunk to calling each other terrorists -- sometimes obliquely, sometimes directly.


Tuesday's metro bomb, which killed four and injured 11 -- including a 4-year-old girl and a pregnant woman -- came less than a week after a remote control bomb severely injured Valery Shantsev, the running mate of Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov.


It also came just two days after a bomb was discovered on Moscow's outer ring road and defused hours before Luzhkov was expected to visit workers improving the road.


President Boris Yeltsin's team has tried to turn the wave of bombing to their political advantage. Following the Shantsev bombing, Luzhkov immediately accused "left-wing structures ... interested in disrupting the elections," and cited Viktor Anpilov, the head of the radical communist party Working Russia and a prominent member of Gennady Zyuganov's People's Patriotic Bloc, by name.


He carried that line of reasoning forward Wednesday. Speaking to Izvestia, Luzhkov laid the blame for the bomb with "reactionary forces" and said it was "another link in a chain of actions ... to seed chaos and thwart the June 16 elections."


Yeltsin, campaigning Wednesday, was just as quick to tie the bomb to the elections.


"This wild, barbaric action carried out just before elections is aimed at destabilizing the situation in the capital and creating an atmosphere of uncertainty and fear," Yeltsin said. "Our best answer to the extremists' designs would be to vote on June 16 for civic peace, for stability, for Russia's future."


Few analysts believed the bombs or the rhetoric around them would have much outcome on how people vote Sunday.


"It's too late to affect the elections, and so hardly anything will change, especially since we can only speculate on who carried out this terrorist act," said Andrei Piontkowsky, director of the Center for Strategic Studies.


Some analysts said that by trying to obliquely link the bomb to Zyuganov -- their No. 1 rival in Sunday's vote -- Luzhkov and Yeltsin may have done more harm to themselves.


"These sorts of unproven accusations might backfire," said Alexander Danil of the human rights group Memorial. "People aren't idiots and they do not appreciate baseless accusations of murder. If politician X says he's absolutely convinced Y is guilty, I don't know who gets more votes out of that -- X or Y."


Some have linked the bombs to the war in Chechnya. Meanwhile, Viktor Ilyukhin, a leading communist Duma deputy, denied any communist responsibility for the bombings but suggested that it could have been the work of "clans within the government."


In fact, some analysts said that the theory of government involvement in Tuesday's bombings was at least possible. "I don't think we should rule out that this is a provocation by the security services," said Maxim Balutenko of the Panorama Information-Expertise Group.


Some analysts said one scenario was that a terrorist campaign would provide the perfect excuse for elements in the government and the security force, keen to forestall a communist victory, to declare a state of emergency and postpone the vote.


"There are very influential people who speak out fairly openly about canceling the elections," said Piontkowsky. "They could have done this."