St Petersburg gathers to commemorate the victims of Monday’s metro bombing, reaffirming the city’s multicultural makeup

(Photo credit: Giovanni Pigni)

Thousands of citizens gathered today near Tekhnologicheskiy Institut metro station in a ceremony attended by St Petersburg’s governor, nine religious and community leaders, and a diversity of city guests and residents

St Petersburg’s citizens gathered today, on the third day of official mourning, to commemorate the 13 victims who lost their lives as a result of Monday’s metro bombing. People of all ages and ethnicities met in front of Tekhnologicheskiy Institut metro station—the site of the tragedy—for an official ceremony initiated by the city administration and accompanied by heavy security. Estimates of the crowd ranged from 5,000 to 30,000 people.

The speakers at the event highlighted the importance of unity in the face of terrorism and of mutual support in difficult moments. St Petersburg’s Governor Georgy Poltavchenko spoke about the bombing in St Petersburg, but also mentioned recent terrorist attacks in Berlin, London, Paris, and Brussels, and the need for international solidarity against a common threat. He praised city residents for their compassion following the attack: “On that terrible day, we all tried to help each other. Everyone who could went out to help both loved ones and strangers.”

The hours following the attack were characterised by an increase in citizen mobilisation: many taxi companies and individual drivers offered free rides through social media to people who were stranded in the city centre after the blast. Restaurants offered tea and snacks to passersby stuck outside in the cold. Two paramedics—employees of the metro system—fought against the clock to help the first victims before ambulances could arrive to evacuate the wounded.

“It’s not the first time we’re facing terrorism—last year with the whole plane crash—-I mean, not only in Russia but all over the world. But we should come together; this is what we do in this city. This what people should do everywhere,” said Andrey, a middle-aged business man at the event.

In his speech, Governor Poltavchenko noted the different ethnic and cultural backgrounds of the 13 victims, and stressed the fact that diversity has been one of the defining features of St Petersburg since its inception.

A mufti, rabbi, Buddhist monk, and priests from the Orthodox, Catholic, Armenian, and Lutheran Churches—9 representatives of the city’s religious communities—were on stage to accentuate the message of unity.

Among the participants at the ceremony, there were also many foreigners who decided to express their support for St Petersburg. “We’re from Kenya. I feel like Russia is having us as guests and people have been treating us with a lot of respect. I want them to know that the respect is mutual,” said Ben, a young engineering student who participated in the ceremony with two of his Kenyan friends.

St Petersburg’s metro explosion recap

On Monday 3 April a suspected bomber killed thirteen people and injured 50 in an attack that shocked the city. On the same day, a second bomb was discovered and defused at the entrance of the neighboring Ploshchad Vosstaniya metro station. The main suspect for the bombing was later identified as 22-year-old Akbarzhon Jalilov, who died during the attack. The young man, who was originally from Kyrgyzstan, had reportedly been living in Russia for six years and had obtained Russian citizenship.

Although the investigation about his motives and possible connections to terrorist groups are ongoing, eight suspects have already been arrested throughout the city in connection to Monday’s attack.

In another development on Thursday morning, a bomb was found in a raid on an apartment in the eastern part of the city. According to Russia’s Investigative Committee, the explosive device found in the apartment was identical to the one used for the bomb that was found on Ploshchad Vosstaniya on the day of the attack.

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