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A car exploded in the center of Stravropol, a southern Russian city neighboring the volatile North Caucasus, killing six people and injuring around 40. The car was parked outside a cafe near the city's cultural center, and exploded at 6:45 Wednesday — 15 minutes before the night's peformance by a Chechen dance troupe was set to begin. Most of the injured have suffered shrapnel wounds. Russia's investigative committee said the blast was a terrorist act.
Stavropol lies just north of the troubled republics of Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia, home to a revived cross-border Islamist insurgency that prays upon discontent with corrupt authorities, an overwhelmingly young population and runaway unemployment to fill its ranks.
In March, the movement's purported chief, Doku Umarov, released a video warning that the attacks that had been limited to the troubled region would spread to the Russian heartland (on March 29, two women blew themselves up on the Moscow metro, killing 40).
Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, ever tactful, blamed the blasts on the region's increasing stability. Try to make sense of that one.
"Some forces very much dislike that the North Caucasus is becoming a stable region, attractive to domestic and foreign investors," Kadyrov said. "They are trying to hinder the process this way."
Technically, Stavropol lies in the North Caucasus Federal District, created by President Dmitry Medvedev in January in a bid to pay focused attention on Russia's most troubled region. Alexander Khloponin, the Kremlin envoy appointed to lead the district, was due to visit the city this week, the region's governor said. "This was probably an action linked to the envoy's visit, to shake loose our neighborly relations," Governor Valery Gayevskiy said.