Moscow attack on airport will complicate Medvedev's investment pitch at Davos

As the investigation into the Moscow attack at Domodedovo airport continues, President Dmitry Medvedev left for Davos to seek foreign investment – now a tougher pitch.

Michel Euler/AP
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev delivers the opening address at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Wednesday, Jan. 26.

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Although major questions remain following the airport suicide bombing in a Moscow airport Monday, the punishment has already begun for Russian officials responsible for preventing such attacks.

President Dmitry Medvedev fired several officials on Wednesday, an action foreshadowed when he said on television that the "officials responsible for organizing the [airport security] process must be brought to their senses," the BBC reported.

Among those fired are regional transport chief Andrei Alexeyev and Moscow police deputy chief Maj. Gen. Vladimir Chugunov. Mr. Medvedev criticized the security measures, saying that transportation security had become lax after being ratcheted up in reaction to an earlier slew of terrorist attacks. Airport officials continue to claim that they should not shoulder the blame.

The prosecutor general has begun an investigation into whether transportation officials were guilty of "criminal negligence." It could lead to more arrests, according to BBC.

Some Russians took a shot at Russian Prime Minster Vladimir Putin, whose security and counterterrorism policies were particularly brutal in the volatile north Caucasus region and generated resentment that may have contributed to Monday's attack, the Monitor reported.

A few are even voicing the previously unthinkable suggestion that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin should resign, since he is the leader most closely associated with setting policy during the decade-long cycle of terrorism and brutal security countermeasures in the seething north Caucasus.

"We should urgently change our agenda, and insist that Putin and [Interior Minister Rashid] Nurgaliev come before the Duma [parliament] to explain themselves," says Vladimir Ulas, a Duma deputy with the Communist Party, which is usually loyal to the Kremlin on security issues. "The authorities have failed in the struggle against terrorism, they can not guarantee national security, so why shouldn't we be discussing the resignation of Putin's government?"

A foreign relations official said in RIA Novosti that Russia should consider adopting airport security measures similar to those at Israel's Ben Gurion Airport, which is well-known for its tight security. "The unprecedented security measures towards passengers in Israel are immediately visible when you arrive in the country, and everybody takes for granted the thorough screening," the official said.

Debate about the identity and origins of those responsible for the attack continued Wednesday. Initial media reports pointed to the north Caucasus region, and a source involved in the investigation said the features of the man believed to be the suspect are those of the people residing in the north Caucasus region, the Guardian reported. However, an anthropologist said the man's features seemed more Arabic.

Reuters reported that the attack "bore all the hallmarks of Islamist rebels from Russia's restive North Caucasus region."

The attack is expected to hamper Medvedev's concerted effort to attract foreign investment to Russia. He left Wednesday for the Davos conference, a gathering of the world's business elite, to pitch Russia's attractiveness for foreign investment, Reuters reported.

Medvedev is still due to speak at the investor forum in Switzerland on Wednesday. But the assault on Russia's main port of entry looks calculated to thwart his message. Several foreigners were among the 35 dead and 110 wounded.

"The terror attack will surely be a prominent topic at Davos, and some investors will wonder anew about Russia's safety," [director of the Eurasia Group Cliff] Kupchan said. "If the bombing did result from indigenous terror, this attack will cause reputational damage beyond the tragic loss of life."

Another factor complicating Medvedev's efforts is the recent sentencing of oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, which highlighted continued political and business corruption that is distasteful to foreign investors, the Monitor reported.

The Kremlin's top economic adviser, Arkady Dvorkovich, who told the online newspaper that the controversial second sentence meted out against the politically disobedient ex-billionaire could chill Russia's troubled investment climate.

"I think a large part of the international community will have serious questions, and the risk assessment of working in Russia will increase," Mr. Dvorkovich is quoted as saying.

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