November 17, 2015 "Information
Clearing House" - MOSCOW:
President Vladimir Putin vowed to hunt down those responsible
for blowing up a Russian airliner over Egypt and intensified
airstrikes against militants in Syria, after the Kremlin
concluded a bomb had destroyed the plane last month, killing 224
Putin ordered the Russian navy
in the eastern Mediterranean to coordinate its actions on the
sea and in the air with the French navy, after the Kremlin used
long-range bombers and cruise missiles in Syria and announced it
would expand its strike force by 37 planes.
"We will find them anywhere on the planet and
punish them," Putin said of the plane bombers at a somber
Kremlin meeting broadcast on Tuesday. The FSB security service
swiftly announced a $50 million bounty in a global manhunt for
Until Tuesday, Russia had played down
assertions from Western countries that the Oct. 31 crash was the
work of terrorists, saying it was important to let the official
investigation run its course.
But four days after Islamist gunmen and
bombers killed at least 129 people in Paris, Alexander Bortnikov,
the head of the FSB, said in televised comments that traces of
foreign-made explosive had been found on fragments of the downed
plane and on passengers' personal belongings.
"We can unequivocally say it was a terrorist
act," Bortnikov said at a Kremlin meeting.
Egyptian authorities have detained two
employees of Sharm el-Sheikh airport, where the downed plane
originated, for questioning, two security officials and an
airport employee said on Tuesday.
"Seventeen people are being held, two of them
are suspected of helping whoever planted the bomb on the plane
at Sharm al-Sheikh airport," said one of the security officials,
who both declined to be named.
Egyptian authorities deny that the evidence
conclusively points to an explosion, but have heightened airport
security over the possibility.
The Airbus A321, operated by Metrojet, had
been returning Russian holiday makers from the Egyptian resort
to St Petersburg when it broke up over the Sinai Peninsula,
killing all on board. A group affiliated with ISIS claimed
Putin, wearing a dark suit, presided over a
minute of silence in memory of the victims at the Kremlin
meeting, before telling security and military chiefs the
incident was one of the bloodiest crimes in modern Russian
"Our air force's military work in Syria must
not simply be continued," he said. "It must be intensified in
such a way that the criminals understand that retribution is
On Tuesday evening, Putin visited the defense
ministry's command center in Moscow, to hear reports from
military chiefs about what they were doing to implement his
As dozens of uniformed servicemen watched on,
the defense minister and top military officials gave Putin their
reports one-by-one, reporting that long-range bombers had loosed
34 cruise missiles and that Russia would bolster its strike
force of around 50 planes and helicopters with a further 37
"You are defending Russia and its citizens,"
Putin told military chiefs. "I want to thank you for your
service and wish you luck."
Russia began air strikes in Syria at the end
of September. It has always said its main target is ISIS, but
most of its bombs in the past hit territory held by other groups
opposed to its ally, President Bashar Assad.
A senior French government source said Russia
had launched air strikes against the Islamic State stronghold of
Raqqa in northern Syria on Tuesday, signalling Moscow was
becoming more concerned about the threat posed by ISIS.
A French defense official said Russia's
realization that its plane had been felled by a bomb was a
wake-up call for Moscow.
"What's changed is less that France has
changed, but that Russia has," said the official. "Russia has
acknowledged that the plane was an attack carried out by Daesh
(ISIS). Russia ... is now beginning to say to itself that Daesh
is also its enemy and has to be hit."
Putin, in language reminiscent of how he
talked about Chechen militants during a war when he came to
power 15 years ago, ordered the secret services to hunt down
"We must do this without any statute of
limitations and we must find out all their names," he said,
invoking Russia's right to self defense under the United Nations
"Anyone who tries to help the criminals should
know that the consequences for trying to shelter them will lie
completely on their shoulders."