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Moscow subway bombings: What now?

How Russia responds to the Moscow subway bombing terrorist attacks will say much about the direction of Russia itself -- and the power-sharing relationship between Putin and Medvedev.

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As Russia mourns those killed in the Moscow subway bombing terrorist attacks this week, its leaders are considering how to respond. One thing they should realize: Brutal tactics against terrorists in the North Caucasus region – the suspected origin of the subway suicide bombers – are not working.

Most Russians outside the region have regarded the iron-fisted strategy of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin as effective. When he was president, Mr. Putin headed a war with Chechnya, the second in five years, to put down separatist rebels in this volatile, mostly Muslim republic on Russia’s southern flank.

(For a Monitor op-ed on the deep roots of the conflict in Chechnya, click here.)

IN PICTURES: Moscow metro bombings

In recent years, raw suppression in Chechnya has kept terrorism from seeping north to major cities such as Moscow. Last year, the Kremlin even announced the end of its special counterterrorism operations in the republic.

But the crackdown in Chechnya has fanned flames of resentment, and Islamic extremism and terrorism have spread to surrounding areas in the North Caucasus. Violence in the region is up sharply in the last year – though the mostly state-controlled Russian media hardly report on it. Islamist rebel leader Doku Umarov, who operates in the North Caucasus, has promised to bring war to Russian streets, homes, and cities. He appears to be making good on his word.

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