Russia Tightens Security In Sochi In Final Weeks Leading Up To Winter Olympics
Russian forces "went on combat alert in Sochi and tightened restrictions on access to the Black Sea resort" on Tuesday, exactly one month before the start of the Winter Olympics, according to REUTERS. Emergency Situations Minister Vladimir Puchkov said, "From January 7, all divisions responsible for ensuring the security of guests and participants at the Games are being put on combat alert." Authorities "are deploying tens of thousands of police and interior ministry troops" to Sochi, which will host "the most expensive Olympics" beginning Feb. 7 (REUTERS, 1/7). The BBC reported the main concern "is the threat of attack by Islamist militants from the restive North Caucasus region." Russia's "most wanted man," Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov, "has urged his fighters to target the Winter Olympics." A "controlled zone" near Olympic venues "will limit access" to people with tickets and proof of identity while another "forbidden zone" will be in place in large areas around Sochi. Vehicles not registered locally and which do not have special accreditation "will be banned from the city." The sale of firearms, explosives and ammunition "will also be prohibited" (BBC, 1/7). The AFP's Mikhail Mordasov reported additional measures "deployed down the line" will let the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation "monitor mobile phone and e-mail traffic while obliging all foreign visitors to register online." Putin "has also been extremely sensitive" about perceptions of Russia as weak, and has thus far "baulked at security assistance offers from nations such as the United States" (AFP, 1/7).
CROSSTOWN TRAFFIC: The AFP also reported police "manned checkpoints on highways leading into the city, allowing through only car and lorry drivers with special accreditations displayed on their windscreens." Within the city, specially marked "Olympic lanes" can only be used by vehicles with permits to access the venues. Drivers without permits to enter the city "must leave their vehicles at car parks at least 100 kilometres away and board commuter trains." Officials asked Sochi residents "not to make unnecessary car journeys, while assuring them that there would be no shortages of supplies." Olympic transport committee official Vitaly Shushpannikov said, "There will be no lack of food, that is our main task: food and medications and consumer goods. All the shops, markets and wholesale stores will be working normally" (AFP, 1/7).
AT ALL COSTS: In Berlin, Mikhail Bushuev reported Russian leadership "fears an attack" on the Winter Olympics. Former Alfa anti-terror unit officer Alexej Filatow said that perhaps "fears are exaggerated at the moment." Filatow: "But they appear to be justified. Security should come first, and convenience second." Authorities "are busy trying to rid the city of all migrant workers and people without proper documents." Russia has more or less "canceled the privacy of correspondence during the Winter Olympics." The national postal operator has announced that all packages and mail en route to the Krasnodar region, which includes Sochi, "will be opened." This began on Jan. 1 and will run through the end of March. Critics of the security measures in Sochi "have fallen silent after the recent terror attacks in Volgograd" (DEUTSCHE WELLE, 1/7).