Russia "began a counter-terrorism operation in a southern province that borders the Krasnodar region," where the Sochi Olympics will be held next month, "after six bodies were found in abandoned cars," according to Stepan Kravchenko of BLOOMBERG. The local government said in a website statement that the security swoop started Thursday at midnight in two districts of the Stavropol region and will include "special measures and temporary restrictions." Six bodies "riddled with bullets were found" Wednesday in parked cars. An explosive device planted near one of the vehicles "blew up without causing any injuries as police examined the scene" (BLOOMBERG, 1/9). The AFP reported as police "examined one of the cars in Stavropol, which contained the body of a local resident who had been shot in the head," an improvised explosive device "went off about 20m away, causing no injuries." Officers "then defused another device nearby" (AFP, 1/10). The London GUARDIAN reported the bodies "were found" in four abandoned cars. Three of the cars "had been rigged with explosive devices." NTV reported from the scene that security "had been heightened on the nearby border with Kabardino-Balkaria, one of several predominantly Muslim republics in Russia's Caucasus" (GUARDIAN, 1/9).
In a move echoing back to Tsarist Russia, more than 400 Cossacks "arrived in the Winter Olympic host city of Sochi on Thursday to help policemen during next month's Games." A Kuban Cossack Brigade spokesperson said that the cossacks "will accompany police patrols in full traditional uniform." The spokesperson said, "They've already arrived at the resort [Sochi] and will take part in maintaining security all the way to the end of the Paralympic Games [on March 16]" (R-SPORT, 1/9). ... Passengers boarding planes departing from Moscow's Vnukovo and Sheremetyevo airports "will be stripped of any liquids in their carry-on baggage as security measures are being tightened throughout the country ahead of the Winter Games." The airport said in a press release that security officers at Sheremetyevo Airport "will remove all liquids, gels and aerosols from carry-on baggage -- including cosmetics and medicines" (MOSCOW TIMES, 1/9). ... A Japanese government spokesperson said that the central government and Tokyo "are in final talks on appointing former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori as chief of the 2020 Olympic organizing committee." The government "had earlier tried to choose a figure from the business world after the 76-year-old Mori showed reluctance to take up its initial offer but has run into roadblocks in its search" (KYODO, 1/8).