A high-speed passenger train derailment that injured at least 60 people on route from Moscow to St. Petersburg was caused by a bomb, Russian authorities said Tuesday. They opened a formal terrorism investigation and announced plans to tighten security ahead of national elections in coming months.
No one died in Monday evening's incident, but authorities suggested the toll could have been much worse. News reports here said the bomb was placed on the tracks about 100 feet before a 60-foot-high overpass that the train, speeding toward St. Petersburg with 250 people on board, was about to cross.
The bomb exploded as the train passed at 120 mph, authorities said. The engine and 12 cars made it across the overpass before lurching off the tracks.
Word that one of the country's busiest railway lines had been attacked rattled many Russians. For the past two years, acts of terrorism here have been limited to the war-torn North Caucasus region.
Citing parliamentary elections in December and a presidential vote in March, officials said Tuesday that Russians needed to recognize that terrorism was a continuing danger and that tough anti-terrorism measures were justified.
The chief of Russia's security service, Nikolai Patrushev, said in televised remarks that "the threat of terrorism and extremism has not yet been eliminated." He tied Monday's attack to growing violence between Russian forces and separatist fighters in and around the restive region of Chechnya.
By Tuesday evening, no group was reported to have asserted responsibility for the bomb.
The attack was the first outside the Caucasus since a train was bombed near Moscow in June 2005. Forty-two people were injured in that attack, the Washington Post reports.
Fighting has simmered again in recent weeks, however, as it often does in the summer. Russia has been conducting military sweep operations in Ingushetia, adjacent to Chechnya, and taking casualties almost every day.
Web sites with connections to the separatists posted news accounts of the bombing, but did not issue statements from the separatists.
The authorities said counterterrorist measures would be strengthened before parliamentary elections scheduled for late this year and the presidential election next spring.
“The threat of extremism and terrorism has not been completely eliminated,” Nikolai P. Patrushev, the director of the domestic intelligence agency, said Tuesday at a meeting of the National Antiterrorist Committee, according to the Interfax news agency.
The derailment occurred near Malaya Vishera in the Novgorod region, about 100 miles southeast of St. Petersburg. Roughly half a mile of track was damaged, and service was stopped in both directions.
Passengers and relatives crowded the Leningradsky Station in Moscow on Tuesday, waiting for service to resume, the New York Times reports.
Prepared by Alexander Timoshik