Russia ramps up security in Sochi

2014-01-07 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) Russia says it has launched one of the biggest security operations in Olympic history, after two suicide attacks killed dozens of people. The announcement comes a month before the start of the Winter Olympic Games in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Russian authorities say they are deploying more than 30,000 police and interior ministry troops and limiting access to the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Yet, protecting the expected thousands of athletes and spectators at a time of suicide bombings in the country has become a major challenge, officials acknowledged.

In a statement, the Emergency Situations Minister Vladimir Puchkov said that from 7 January, all divisions responsible for ensuring the guests' security at the Games "are being put on combat alert."

He added: "Every facility will be put under protection and a space-based monitoring system will be launched."

The decision comes after two suicide bomb attacks killed 34 people in the southern city of Volgograd on 29 and 30 December.

Chechen warlord Doku Umarov, who wants to establish an Islamic state, had urged his fighters to disrupt the Olympic Games with all means possible.

Russian security measures are closely watched by the United States, from where some 250 athletes are competing, explained State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf.

"People should also be reminded that threats have been made against the Olympic Games and acts of terrorism, including bombings, continue to occur in Russia," Harf said.

"So obviously this is an exciting, positive, happy international sporting event, but people going there do need to maintain vigilance and watch out for their own security and safety," she added.

International concerns remain that ongoing anti-Kremlin insurgency in the Northern Caucasus could affect the Sochi Winter Games, which open on 7 February, followed by the Paralympics.

Last year, Russian authorities used security concerns to announce that protest rallies would be banned in the Games area.

But after pressure from campaign groups, a recent decree says protests during the Games can be held, if agreed with local authorities.

Listen to the report by Stefan Bos: