x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Russia deploys massive force to secure Sochi Olympics

Russia launched the largest security operation in Olympic history on Tuesday amid renewed fears of suicide bombings.

SOCHI // Russia launched the largest security operation in Olympic history on Tuesday amid renewed fears of suicide bombings.

With just one month to go before the Winter Games start, the army and navy joined the 37,000-strong contingent overseeing security at the February 7-23 sports extravaganza.

The prestige project - often referred to as the “Putin Games” and costing US$50 billion (Dh183.65bn) - has already been blighted by snubs from western leaders upset with what they see as Kremlin-backed discrimination against gays and the infringement of many other rights.

Railway station and trolley-bus blasts that killed 34 in Volgograd last month have revived fears that militant Islamists from the Caucasus will seek to wreak havoc on the globally watched event.

Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, responded to mounting diplomatic pressure over the weekend by easing the terms of a tough decree banning all forms of political protest in Sochi.

And Russia’s answer to the threat of terror was unveiled yesterday when the feared Federal Security Service (FSB) took charge of a security clampdown even fiercer than that seen at the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing.

“Starting January 7, all divisions responsible for ensuring the guests’ security at the Games are being put on combat alert,” the emergencies minister, Vladimir Puchkov, said.

“Every facility will be put under protection and a space-based monitoring system will be launched.”

Additional measures deployed down the line will let the FSB monitor mobile phone and email traffic while all foreign visitors will be obliged to register online.

* Agence France-Presse