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Dagestan suicide bombings have Russia looking to Putin

The Dagestan suicide bombings on Wednesday were the latest in a spate of attacks that has many in Russia looking to Vladimir Putin, whose reputation was built on tough talk and action against insurgents.

By Correspondent / March 31, 2010

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin heads the cabinet meeting at the Novo-Ogaryovo presidential residence outside Moscow. Putin said the Dagestan suicide bombings on Wednesday may have been organized by the same militants who attacked the Moscow subway.

Alexei Nikolsky/RIA Novosti/AP

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Moscow

The Dagestan suicide bombings Wednesday were the latest in a spate of attacks inside Russia that have put intense pressure on powerful Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to preserve his legacy of bringing strength, security, and stability to Russia.

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Experts are deeply divided over what options may be available to Mr. Putin, who as president championed a tough approach to the rebellious republic of Chechnya and also committed Russia to host the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, a city that sits on the very edge of the seething North Caucasus region.

Wednesday's double suicide bombing in Kizlyar, Dagestan, killed at least 12 people and wounded 23, mostly members of Russia's security forces, and focused attention on an insurgency that's been expanding, largely below the world's radar screen, on Russia's troubled southern flank for at least two years. Insurgents from the North Caucasus are suspected behind the pair of devastating strikes at two underground Metro stations in Moscow on Monday morning that killed 39 people.

IN PICTURES: Bombings in Russia

The explosive return of terrorism to Russia's political agenda "is a deep and personal challenge for Putin," says Nikolai Petrov, an analyst with the Carnegie Center in Moscow.

Putin came to power in 1999 amid a wave of terrorist apartment bombings that killed hundreds in Moscow and other Russian cities. He famously remarked that Russian forces would "wipe out the bandits in the outhouse" and oversaw a brutal pacification program against Chechen rebels that seemed to end with the Kremlin declaring victory last year.

"The whole myth of Putin is that he's very tough, very effective, and that his policies did bring peace and stability to the North Caucasus," says Mr. Petrov.

Violence returns, threatens Sochi Olympics

For nearly six years, Russia's heartland has been relatively free from the horrific terrorist attacks that characterized Putin's early years as president, though a deadly bombing on a Moscow-St. Petersburg train last November was read by some experts as a warning of things to come.

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