MOSCOW -- Prime Minister Vladimir Putin vowed "retribution is inevitable" for the suicide bombing that killed 35 people at Russia's busiest airport, while President Dmitry Medvedev demanded robust checks at all transport hubs and lashed out at the airport for lax security.
Putin has built much of his reputation on his harsh stance against terror, but he did not elaborate on what kind of retribution he had planned or for whom in his comments Tuesday during a government meeting.
No claims of responsibility have been made for the attack Monday at Domodedovo Airport, which also left 180 people injured. Suspicion is likely to fall, however, on Islamist separatist insurgents from Chechnya or elsewhere in Russia's restive Caucasus region who have been battling Russian authority for over 15 years.
Chechen insurgents have claimed responsibility for previous attacks in Moscow, including a double suicide bombing on the capital's subway system in March 2010 that killed 40 people. They also have hit Domodedovo Airport before, with two suicide bombers slipping through its security in 2004 to kill 90 people.
Medvedev described Domodedovo Airport security as being in "a state of anarchy" and said its management must bear key responsibility for security failures that contributed to Monday's blast. He also said government security officials would be held accountable for any lapses.
Airport management objected, saying transport police were responsible for the inspection of people coming into the international arrivals area where the bombing took place.
The blast undermines confidence in Russia's security ahead of Medvedev's high-profile appearance this week seeking investors at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The attack also called into question Russia's ability to safely host major international events like the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and the 2018 World Cup.
Putin rose to power largely on his tough-against-terror image, including a famous vow that Chechen rebels would be hunted down and killed "in the outhouse." But despite launching the second Russia-Chechnya war and pushing harsh against suspected rebels, he was unable to wipe out the Chechen insurgency during his 2000-2008 presidency.
In addition, it's unclear what levers Putin could push now if he aims to exact retribution. After the 2004 Beslan school hostage crisis that left more than 330 people dead, Putin pushed through changes to make regional governors appointed rather than elected. Still, further attempts at consolidating Kremlin control could provoke a backlash from an opposition movement that has grown in recent months.
Aviation security experts have been warning since the Sept. 11 attacks that the crowds at many airports present a tempting target for suicide bombers. The latest bombing exposed the unprotected underbelly of airport security -- the international arrivals area, packed with families, taxi drivers and businesspeople, all of whom do not go through airport security. Few airports in the world control the entrances to such areas.
The Emergencies Ministry said the dead included one person each from Britain, Germany, Austria, Ukraine, Tajikistan. Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan; 16 were Russians and the remaining 12 had not been identified. A further 110 people, including nine foreigners, were hospitalized.
Authorities in the Czech Republic and Ukraine beefed up airport security after the blast.
Medvedev postponed his departure for Davos, where he is to be the main speaker Wednesday. The Kremlin said he still planned to go.
Russia's attractiveness for investors had already been shaken in December when ex-oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky was sentenced to six more years in prison. Khodorkovsky has been jailed since 2003 in a case critics say is revenge by Putin for his support of opposition politicians.
The Russian president, often seen as submissive to Putin, appeared to be trying to assert his power Tuesday by suggesting that officials at both the Interior Ministry and the Federal Security Service could be at fault.
"I instruct the interior minister to suggest which ministry officials responsible for transport security could be dismissed or face other sanctions," he said, making similar instructions to the security service.
He also called for "total examination" of passengers and baggage at key transport centers. "This will make it longer for passengers, but it's the only way," he said.
Conflicting reports emerged Tuesday about how the bombing was carried out. Some accounts, citing unnamed investigators, said there were two bombers, one of them a woman. However, an Russian investigator speaking to the ITAR-Tass news agency later dismissed that report, saying they believed there was just one attacker, a strongly built man between 30 and 40 years old.
A witness said the man who appeared to have carried out the attack was carrying a suitcase that caught fire, but investigators said they believed the attacker had the explosives strapped to his body.
Some earlier reports said the severed head of a suspected bomber had been found. However, ITAR-Tass cited an investigator who said DNA testing would be necessary before any suspect was identified.
The blast came at 4:32 p.m. Monday, when thousands of passengers and workers were in the arrivals terminal. They were sprayed with shrapnel containing screws and ball bearings, intended to cause as many casualties as possible.
Among dead was Ukrainian playwright Anna Yablonskaya, who had flown into Moscow to accept an arts award.
Built in 1964, Domodedovo is located 26 miles (42 kilometers) southeast of Moscow and is the largest of the three major airports serving the capital, handling more than 22 million passengers last year.