(Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) takes part in a meeting with Muslim clerics in Ufa October 22, 2013. REUTERS/Mikhail Klimentyev/RIA Novosti/Kremlin )

President Vladimir Putin accused foreign rivals on Tuesday of using radical Islam to weaken Russia and appealed to Muslim clerics to help reduce tensions after a deadly suicide bombing and nationalist riots.

The comments, his first on this month’s riots in Moscow, were delivered in the mainly Muslim region of Bashkortostan and underlined Kremlin concerns that ethnic or religious tensions could threaten the unity of the Russian state.

Monday’s suicide bombing, blamed on a Muslim woman from the North Caucasus, killed six people on a bus in Volgograd and raised fears about attacks as Russia prepares for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

“Some political forces use Islam, the radical currents within it … to weaken our state and create conflicts on Russian soil that can be managed from abroad,” Putin told Muslim clerics meeting in Ufa, Bashkortostan’s capital, in southern Russia.