Russia launches security clampdown for Winter Olympics
Four weeks before the start of Winter Olympics in Russia’s Sochi, authorities have launched an unprecedented security operation, sealing off a vast area around the Games venue and deploying tens of thousands of security personnel.
A full security clampdown was launched on Tuesday, a full month ahead of the Olympics opening day, February 7.
“Starting 7 January, all divisions responsible for ensuring the guests’ security at the Games are being put on combat alert,” said Emergency Situations Minister Vladimir Puchkov.
Security at the Olympics will be maintained by more than 30,000 police and Interior Ministry troops, 23,000 personnel of the Emergency Situations Ministry and 30,000 armed forces troops. This is about five times more than the total security presence at the 2012 London Olympics.
The Federal Security Agency (FSB), successor to the Soviet-era KGB, which is in charge of security at the Games, has established a “forbidden zone” around Sochi, which stretches about 100 km along the Black Sea coast and as far inland, to the administrative borders of North Caucasus, Russia’s hotbed of terrorism.
The security regime in Sochi includes a ban on cars registered in other regions, screening of all Olympic ticket holders and background security checks on all foreign visitors, as well as close monitoring of internet, telephone and other communications.
Drones equipped with infrared scanners and 11,000 video cameras will provide 24-hour surveillance of all Olympic facilities, short-range air defence systems Pantsir-S will protect the airspace, while advanced sonar systems, speed boats and submarines will guard the sea off the Sochi coast.
Two deadly suicide bombings in Volgograd, a Russian city 700 km away from Sochi, on the eve of the New Year heightened concerns for the safety of the coming Olympic Games, but Russian Olympic Committee President Alexander Zhukov said there was no need to take any extra steps to secure Sochi.
“All necessary security measures have been put in place,” the Olympic chief told reporters after the Volgograd attacks.
President Vladimir Putin last week even lifted his earlier ban on rallies and demonstrations during the Sochi Olympics.