VOLGOGRAD, Russia - President Vladimir Putin met wounded victims of deadly suicide bombings in the southern Russian city of Volgograd on Wednesday, heaping condemnation on the attacks that raised security fears ahead of the Winter Olympics.
Putin flew in before dawn, after vowing in a New Year address to "annihilate" terrorists in uncompromising remarks aimed at Islamist insurgents based in the North Caucasus who have plagued his 14-year rule.
"No matter what motivated the criminals, there can be no justification for crimes against civilians, particularly against women and children," Putin said in televised comments at the started of a meeting with senior security officials.
"The vileness of the crime - or crimes - that were committed here, in Volgograd, needs no additional commentary," Putin said during the tightly-controlled visit.
A suicide bomb blast in Volgograd's main railway station on Sunday afternoon killed at least 18 people, and a second attacker blew up a trolley bus during rush hour on Monday morning, killing 16 and leaving bodies strewn on the street.