President Vladimir Putin vowed to hunt down those responsible for blowing up a Russian airliner over Egypt and intensified air strikes against militants in Syria, after the Kremlin concluded a bomb had destroyed the plane last month, killing 224 people.
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 the bombers.
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 al-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.