MOSCOW ? President Dmitri A. Medvedev on Tuesday sharply questioned security precautions at the airport on Moscow that was hit by a suicide bomber on Monday, saying that officials must be held responsible for failing to prevent the devastating attack.
?What occurred shows that there were violations in providing security,? Mr. Medvedev said in comments released by the Kremlin. ?Such a quantity of explosive material that was carried in or brought in ? that?s not so easy to do. We must hold responsible those who have ties to the company that makes decisions, the management of the airport.?
The suicide bombing on Monday at Moscow?s busiest airport, Domodedovo, killed at least 35 people, injured scores of others and injected new pain into a country already split along ethnic lines.
Mr. Medvedev did not specify which security arrangements at the airport he believed were lacking. The bomb went off in the international arrivals area, where people wait to pick up passengers ? a location that is often unsecured in many major airports around the world.
Security experts consider arrivals areas to be so-called soft targets because they are less heavily policed.
In the past, people entering such zones in Russian airports have occasionally had to pass through metal detectors but such checks have generally been sporadic. After the attack on Monday, the authorities immediately set up new inspections.
There was no indication on Tuesday morning of who was behind the blast.
Past terrorist attacks have been traced to militants in the North Caucasus, a predominantly Muslim region in the south of Russia. And the city was on edge even before the attacks, after ethnic Russian nationalists lashed out violently at migrants from the troubled region in mid-December.
The attack inflicted a deep injury on Moscow?s image just as Mr. Medvedev prepared to woo foreign investors at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The bomb ? set off in the international arrivals hall of Domodedovo, the city?s glittering showcase airport ? killed and wounded visitors from the West, something that has occurred very rarely in previous terrorist attacks.
But Russians were too shocked Monday night to focus on the implications.
The smoke was so thick after the blast that it was hard to count the dead. Hours later arriving passengers stepped into the hall to see the wounded still being loaded onto stretchers. Ambulances sped away crowded with three or four patients apiece, bleeding heavily from shrapnel wounds. By nightfall, officials reported that at least 35 people had been killed and 168 wounded.
?They pushed them away on baggage carts,? said Aleksei Spiridonov, who works at an auto rental booth a few yards from the site of the blast. ?They were wheeling them out on whatever they could find.?
Russia?s leaders have struggled, with a good measure of success, to keep militants from the North Caucasus from striking in the heartland. In March, two female suicide bombers detonated themselves on the city?s subway, killing more than 40 people ? an act that the Chechen militant leader Doku Umarov claimed to have ordered, promising Russians that ?the war will come to your streets.?
Mr. Umarov?s organization also took responsibility for the bombing of a luxury train, the Nevsky Express, which killed 28 in November 2009.
Monday?s attack could also have political implications, coming after a period of tentative liberalization. In the past, such attacks have strengthened the influence of Russian security forces and Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin by firmly establishing security as the country?s top priority.
The bomber apparently entered the international arrivals terminal from outside, advancing to the cordon where taxi drivers and relatives wait to greet arriving passengers. The area is open to the general public, said Yelena Galanova, an airport spokeswoman, according to the Interfax news service.
Artyom Zhilenkov, a taxi driver who was in that crowd, said he was standing about 10 yards from a short, dark-complexioned man with a suitcase ? the bomber, he believes. Authorities said the blast occurred at 4:32 p.m. local time, as passengers from Italy, Tajikistan and Germany emerged from customs.
?How did I manage to save myself? I don?t know,? Mr. Zhilenkov said, his track suit dotted with blood and small ragged holes. ?The people behind me on my left and right were blown apart. Maybe because of that.?
Another witness, Yuri, who did not give his last name, told Russia?s state-run First Channel TV that the shock wave was strong enough to throw him to the floor and blow his hat away.
After that, the hall filled with thick smoke and part of the ceiling collapsed, said Mr. Spiridonov, the auto rental worker.
Thirty-one people died at the site of the explosion, one in an ambulance and three in hospitals, the Health Ministry said. Among the wounded were French and Italian citizens, according to the Health and Social Development Ministry. At least two Britons died, said a spokesman for the Investigative Committee.
Witnesses said many of the victims suffered terrible wounds to their faces, limbs and bodies.
?One person came out and fell,? Olga Yaholnikova told RenTV television. ?And there was a man with half of his body torn away.?
Mr. Medvedev, who was scheduled to give a keynote address in Davos on Wednesday, postponed his trip to manage the aftermath of the attack. He gave brief televised remarks almost immediately, telling Russians that he believed the blast was a terrorist act.
Mr. Putin also appeared on television on Monday night, gravely ordering the health minister to provide aid to all the bombing victims, visiting clinics one by one, if necessary, he said.
In Washington, President Obama condemned what he called an ?outrageous act of terrorism? and offered assistance.
The State Department said it had not received confirmation of any Americans who had been killed or wounded at the airport.
The airport, southeast of the capital, is Russia?s largest airline hub, with more than 20 million passengers passing through last year.
Domodedovo was the site of a previous terror attack, in August 2004, when two Chechen suicide bombers boarded separate planes there, killing themselves and 88 others in midair. The attack exposed holes in security, since the two bombers, both women, had been detained shortly before boarding, but were released by a police supervisor. The authorities have since worked to tighten security.
The airport remained open on Monday evening, and passengers continued to flow through the hall where the bomb had exploded. Gerald Zapf, who landed shortly after the blast, said his airplane circled the airport several times before landing, and passengers were forced to wait for some time before they could debark.
When they finally made it into the airport, he said, he and the other passengers were led past sheets of blue plastic, which hid signs of the carnage. Meanwhile, transportation officials had ordered ?100 percent control of passengers and visitors and their baggage, including their hand baggage,? resulting in long, snaking lines and shoving matches at the airport?s entrances.
Monday?s explosion pointed to the continuing fascination with air travel for militants and the difficulty of carrying out an attack aboard a jet, said Stephen A. Baker, a former official with the Department of Homeland Security. ?They?d like to be bombing planes and they can?t, so they?re bombing airports,? he said.
I know Terrorism happens everyday but these guys could have stolen my luggage at the arrival terminal and put a bomb in it.