Vladimir Putin Creates 'Forbidden Zone' To Thwart Terrorist Threat At 2014 Sochi Olympics
Russia President Vladimir Putin "has signed a decree creating a special security 'prohibited area' designed to thwart terrorist attacks but also deter political rallies" for the 2014 Sochi Olympics, according to Charles Clover of the FINANCIAL TIMES. The decree will take effect on Jan. 7 and remain until March 21, and "apply to the city of Sochi and the region around it, creating what one human rights expert called a 'special operations zone' in Sochi." Human Rights Watch Deputy Dir Tanya Lokshina said, "It is normal for cities hosting the Olympics to have special security programs but this one looks quite dramatic. These are similar to a counter insurgency operation." The wording of the decree "is very broad," preventing not just "the sale of explosive materials" at the Games but also "gatherings, rallies, demonstrations, marches and pickets" that are not related to the Olympics (FT, 8/23). In N.Y., Paul Sonne reported the executive order published Friday "isn’t the first Russian regulation to tamp down on public demonstrations." Russia’s Parliament "introduced new restrictions on public gatherings in June 2012, stepping up punishments for unauthorized rallies just a few months after mass demonstrations against Putin’s rule swept Moscow." Friday’s order creates a so-called “forbidden zone” -- to which only "authorized personnel and vehicles will be allowed access -- that stretches for miles around the Black Sea resort city." It also "prescribes special 'antiterrorist protection measures' for potential targets in and around Sochi, restricts both the airspace and the water area around the Olympic Park, limits vehicle traffic and provides for 'specially equipped checkpoints for the examination of individuals' to be installed at the site" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 8/23).
'DRACONIAN' LAW: REUTERS reported that human rights activists said that "the restrictions were draconian." Legal aid group AGORA Chair Pavel Chikov said that barring cars from outside Sochi "restricts Russians' freedom of movement and the ban on most public gatherings violates their constitutional right to free assembly" (REUTERS, 8/24). The AP's Nataliya Vasilyeva reported rights organizations "have voiced concerns about what they described as the 'harassment and intimidation of civil society' advocates in Sochi." Human Rights Watch said in a statement environmental, human rights and other activists have been "the targets of attacks, detention for peaceful protests and police searches" (AP, 8/24).