Transitions Online 7 January 2014
One month before the Winter Olympics open, with the terror bombings in Volgograd still fresh in memory, Russia has launched a huge security operation in and around the Olympic host city of Sochi.
“All divisions responsible for ensuring the security of guests and participants at the Games are being put on combat alert,” Emergency Situations Minister Vladimir Puchkov said, according to Reuters. Authorities have also tightened restrictions on traffic into the city.
Deutsche Welle reports that 37,000 police from around Russia will be stationed in Sochi to provide security and assist visitors. More than 20,000 additional civil defense personnel, soldiers, border guards, and intelligence agents will also be sent to the area.
The massive security operation is in addition to an unprecedented level of monitoring of telephone and online communications in the area revealed in October by two Russian investigative reporters.
Following two suicide bombings in late December at Volgograd’s main train station and aboard a trolleybus, leaving at least 34 people dead, President Vladimir Putin ordered heightened security nationwide, Reuters writes. No group has claimed responsibility for the bombings, but media have focused on the potential involvement of North Caucasus Islamists, noting rebel leader Doku Umarov’s threat to use “maximum force” against the Games last summer. After a previous suicide attack in Volgograd in October, investigators identified the bomber as a woman from the mostly Muslim republic of Dagestan.
Restrictions on one kind of activity in Sochi are to be eased, Putin announced last week when he lifted a ban on protest rallies. Protests will now be permitted in a special area under tight security.
The first events of the Games will take place 6 February, with the opening ceremony due to be held 7 February.
Sochi Olympics: Security gets even tighter