An explosion on Monday rocked the St. Petersburg metro, where Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke at an event that day.
Andrei Kibitov, spokesman for the St. Petersburg governor, told Russian television that 10 people have been killed and 50 injured in the subway explosion, the Associated Press reported. In the Russian capital of Moscow, Deputy Mayor Maxim Liksutov said authorities are tightening metro security.
BREAKING: Russian governor's spokesman: 10 people killed, 50 injured in St. Petersburg subway explosion.
— The Associated Press (@AP) April 3, 2017
The news broke on social media, as users shared video of the scene.
— Alex Kokcharov (@AlexKokcharov) April 3, 2017
Original reports said there were two separate explosions, but later reports suggested there might only have been one. Smoke from one explosion might have spread to another metro station, giving the appearance of two hits.
— Пятый канал Новости (@5tv) April 3, 2017
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin had been informed about the blast, Britain’s The Guardian reported. The Russian president reportedly expressed his condolences to the victims ahead of his scheduled meeting with Alexander Lukashenko, president of Belarus.
Peskov said it was “too early to say” what caused the blast, but said it could be “criminal or terrorist.”
Russian Senator Viktor Ozerov told Interfax news agency that the explosion looked like a terrorist attack, according to the AP.
The Islamic State (ISIS) has claimed responsibility for terror attacks across Europe, and it might make sense for ISIS to target Russia, since the Eurasian giant power has publicly waged a war against the state in Syria, backing Syrian President Bashar Assad. But many experts have suggested that Russia’s war against ISIS is really a smokescreen for Putin to pursue his own goals in the Middle East, more supporting Assad and expanding Russian power than fighting terrorism.
While the attack does coincide with Putin’s visit to St. Petersburg, an explosion on the metro would not be likely to hit the Russian president, who tends to travel more securely via Russian-made limousine motorcade, airplanes, and helicopter.
Whatever the cause of the explosion, thoughts and prayers are with the people of St. Petersburg on Monday.
“We are shocked and saddened form the blast in St. Petersburg, as the result of which people died and were injured,” the U.S. embassy in Moscow tweeted. “We wholeheartedly support the victims and their families.”
Потрясены и опечалены взрывами в Петербурге, в результате которых погибли и пострадали люди. Всем сердцем мы с жертвами и их семьями @MID_RF
— Посольство США в РФ (@USEmbRu) April 3, 2017
Brendan Boyle, a U.S. congressman from Pennsylvania, tweeted, “My thoughts & prayers are with the victims in St Petersburg and their families.”
My thoughts & prayers are with the victims in St Petersburg and their families.
— US Rep Brendan Boyle (@RepBrendanBoyle) April 3, 2017
The Washington, D.C.-based Catholic University also sent well wishes to the victims. “Catholic University student in St. Petersburg reported to be safe,” the school’s Twitter account reported. “Prayers from our community for those affected by today’s violence.”
Catholic University student in St. Petersburg reported to be safe. Prayers from our community for those affected by today's violence.
— The Catholic University of America (@CatholicUniv) April 3, 2017
The Voice of Europe news service tweeted a Russian flag with the message, “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the people of St. Petersburg and Russia.”
Will this news displace the liberal narrative that Trump was in bed with Russia and that Putin helped him win the election? If ISIS does claim responsibility, will it galvanize even more alliances against the terror group? Trump is unlikely to stay silent, one way or the other.