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St. Petersburg Metro blast: Terrorist ‘PR coup’?

St. Petersburg Metro blast: Terrorist ‘PR coup’?
Who could be behind the explosion at a metro station in the center of St. Petersburg? What response can we expect from Russian authorities? What security measures should be taken? RT asked experts.

The explosion at a metro station in the center of Saint-Petersburg killed at least 10 people and injured dozens on Monday.

READ MORE: St. Petersburg Metro blast

Former MI5 intelligence officer Annie Machon suggested that “as we have seen different types of attacks unfolding across the world over the last few years, however, I’d suggest that this does have the hallmarks, potentially of the ISIS-inspired type attack.

I say this particularly because of the intervention Russia made in Syria and freeing East Aleppo over the last few months. ISIS has been very vocal in saying that it would attempt to hit back at some point. That is one very strong possibility,” Machon argued.

As to why St. Petersburg was picked as a location for the attack, Machon said it could be a “PR coup to be seen to be attacking the heart of any country’s establishment.”

So if the president is in that city on that day, and it is his hometown anyway, obviously it is a PR coup,” she said.

On Monday, Vladimir Putin is in St. Petersburg to meet Belarusian counterpart, Aleksandr Lukashenko.

It has been like the attack in London recently, as well. Why outside the palace of Westminster? Because it is the seat of the government.

Neil Clark, world affairs journalist and broadcaster, said his first thoughts about the blast in St. Petersburg: “It reminds one of the terrible bombings on the Moscow metro which took place in 2010 when 41 people were killed and the Moscow airport attack.”

“Security is already pretty tough in Russia. When we are talking about putting a bomb on underground trains, it is a lot easier to protect airports, because we can have metal detectors for people going into airports,” he continued.

“But it is much harder for security forces to make metro stations and going underground in Russia totally safe. This is a basic dilemma here. It is easier to protect airports – we can have security outside and inside airports... I am sure now there will be a major response from the Russian authorities. They would look closely at what steps could be taken particularly in the major cities of Russia to minimize the chance of these terrible attacks happening again,” Neil Clark told RT.

Ammar Waqqaf, from Gnosos, says “Islamic terrorism cannot be ruled out” and if that really is the case and the likes of ISIS or other groups are behind the deadly incident, “this is worrying.”

“This is not like MetroJet plane coming out of Egypt, Sinai where you already have some Al-Qaeda elements there…this is right in the heart of Russia.”

“If someone claims responsibility for this like ISIS, then probably we are thinking… should Russia do something more on an international scale to prevent atrocities like this at home,” he added.

Peter Ford, former UK ambassador to Syria, told RT: “Why St. Petersburg? Equally, it could have been Moscow…It is clearly somewhere where it would be a high number of casualties and a lot of media resonance.”

In Ford’s opinion, there isn’t enough communication between international services in their fight against terrorism.

“And there is a great reluctance on the part of Western security agencies to share information with Russia across the borders, not only in a Syrian context. A couple of months ago Russia made a very serious proposal to increase intelligence sharing in Russia, but this was turned down by the Pentagon.”

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There’ve been a number of attacks on other European cities recently. RT asked Martin McCauley, author and Russia analyst whether the attack in St. Petersburg could change relations between Russia and its European partners.

There has to be greater cooperation in the fight against terrorism between Russia and the West, including the US, and Israel - which has “very good intelligence sources,” he said.

It’s in the interest of all powers because if terrorists are able to hit one city after the other, that means that they are quite powerful and that no city in Europe is safe. Therefore it’s in the interests of everyone in Europe and the US to come together and collect, and share information so that they can perhaps prevent an attack,” McCauley said.

A second explosive device has reportedly been found and defused two stations away from the site of the blast.

Joaquin Flores, Editor in Chief at Fort Russ News, told RT: “What it tells us is quite the contrary of what is possibly the aim of the attack. The aim of the attack often in such a case where you have perhaps religiously oriented millenarian type groups who are trying to inflict as many casualties as possible. One of these aims here is normally to harass or embarrass government security forces so that the government appears unable to help the people, unable to protect them or to cause the government to overreact and appear somehow repressive to cut against the rights of the citizens as the government attempts to provide security. So what this tells us is that nevertheless, Russian security agencies were able to coordinate their efforts and were able to prevent what was a series of other attacks."

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.