The Caucasus Emirate led by Doku Umarov is thought to be responsible for two suicide bombings in two days in the Southern Russian city of Volgograd on 29 and 30 December 2013. The first attack, on Volgograd 1 train station on 29 December, killed 18 people, while the second bomber killed 16 on a trolleybus. The attacks come in advance of the Sochi Olympics, with Umarov having vowed to disrupt the games. The bombings are in line with a possible campaign against major cities using the long-standing Riyad us-Salihiin Brigade of Martyrs to conduct suicide attacks.
The two attacks follow a previous bus bombing in Volgograd by Dagestani extremist Naida Asiyalova that killed seven people on 21 October 2013. It was initially claimed that the October attack might have been destined for Moscow, but that Asiyalova may have detonated early in Volgograd. However, the latest attacks are clearly aimed at the city directly. Following the declared end of a self-imposed ceasefire against Russian civilians last July, the Caucasus Emirate appears to have moved back to a strategy of high casualty actions. This may prove controversial with some of their fighters, not all of whom believe that civilians represent legitimate targets (with this being an increasing issue for jihadist groups worldwide, as we have often commented).
We continue to believe that the exceptionally high level of security around the Sochi Olympics, due to commence on 7 February, means that attacks remain more likely in regional cities. It is unlikely in our opinion that the Caucasus Emirate, the key threat actor in the region, has the resources necessary to conduct an attack on the games venues themselves, although attacks on power stations or infrastructure connected with the games remains a (remote) possibility. International groups may also attempt to target airlines flying to or from Russia, and those flying from less secure locations outside the EU may be especially vulnerable. However, the key threat is likely to remain to cities in the North Caucasus and Southern Federal Districts, including Stavropol, Volgograd and Krasnodar, the capital of Krasnodar Krai, the region in which Sochi is located. Western interests in this region could be targeted although in general we expect the Emirate to primarily continue to attempt to inflict high casualty attacks on indiscriminate targets across Russia, in the hope of discouraging travel to the games and drawing attention at this critical time.