Russians today nervously returned to the subway stations where two suicide bombers killed 39 people, as the country began a day of mourning.
Yesterday’s attacks shocked a country that had grown accustomed to such violence being confined to a troubled southern corner – and marked the return of terrorism to the everyday lives of Muscovites after a six-year break.
Many have speculated that the blasts, blamed on North Caucasus rebels, were retaliation for the recent killing of separatist leaders in the region by Russian police.
The preliminary investigation found that women suicide bombers detonated belts of explosives during the rush hour at the stations.
Five people remain in critical condition out of 71 hospitalised after the blasts.
Some politicians today called for the return of the death penalty for terrorism, and President Dmitry Medvedev called on judges to consider amending terrorism laws.
The city remained on edge, even as people began to commute on the subway again.
“I feel the tension on the metro, nobody’s smiling or laughing,” said university student Alina Tsaritova, not far from the Lubyanka station, one of the targets.
Some commuters said today they would try and block the events out of their mind completely.
“We have to live with this, not to think about it, especially when we’re underground,” said Tatyana Yerofeyeva.
As public outrage swells, the upper house of parliament is proposing bringing back the death penalty for such crimes.
“This is our reaction to yesterday’s tragic events,” Anatoly Kyskov, the Federation Council’s legal committee chairman, said.
Mr Medvedev called on chairmen from the Supreme Court and the High Court of Arbitration to propose ways to “perfect” terrorism laws.
Russia announced a moratorium on capital punishment when it joined the Council of Europe in 1996 and pledged to abolish it, but has not done so. The Kremlin-controlled parliament has been reluctant to fully outlaw executions, due to broad public support for the death penalty.
As Moscow mourned, plastic plaques hung in the two metro stations above tables overflowing with flowers; their inscriptions promised permanent replacements. Some people were choked by tears as they laid candles.
Flags flew at half staff on government buildings, at the Kremlin, and in other cities across the country. Entertainment events and television shows were cancelled, and services were scheduled at several churches.
Heightened transportation security remained in effect across the capital and elsewhere. Police with machine guns and sniffer dogs patrolled subway entrances.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who built much of his political capital by directing a fierce war against Chechen separatists a decade ago, has promised to track down and kill the organisers of what he called a “disgusting” crime.
The Moscow subway system is the world’s second-busiest after Tokyo’s, carrying around seven million passengers on an average workday, and is a key element in running the sprawling and traffic-choked city.