Putin says Sochi has 40,000 police officers for Olympics
Russian President Vladimir Putin said 40,000 police and special services officers have been deployed in the Black Sea resort of Sochi to ensure security ahead of the Winter Olympics’ opening ceremony Feb. 7.
“It means that we will protect our air and sea space, as well as the mountain cluster,” Putin said in an interview with foreign and domestic media recorded in Sochi on Friday and televised yesterday. “I hope that it will be arranged so that it will not be evident and, as I have already said, will not depress the participants in the Olympic Games.”
Putin said the government introduced a “special regime” to limit the movement of people and goods in the region Jan 7. Russia is spending at least $48 billion to stage the Games, more than any previous host nation.
Security has been stepped up across Russia since two suicide bombings killed more than 30 people Dec. 29 and Dec. 30 in the southern city of Volgograd, about 400 miles from Sochi. The police said Saturday they were searching the city for Razmena Ibragimova, a woman they said may attempt a suicide bombing.
An Islamic militant group in Russia’s North Caucasus claimed responsibility yesterday for the twin suicide bombings and posted a video threatening to strike the Olympics.
There had been no previous claim of responsibility for the bombings, which killed 34 people and heightened security fears before the Games.
In the video, two Russian-speaking men warned Putin: “If you hold these Olympics, we will give you a present for the innocent Muslim blood being spilled all around the world: in Afghanistan, in Somalia, in Syria.”
They added that “for the tourists who come, there will be a present, too.”
In a statement posted with the video on its website, the militant group Vilayat Dagestan claimed responsibility for the Volgograd bombings.
The video claims that the two men, identified as Suleiman and Abdurakhman, were the suicide bombers and purports to show the explosives being prepared and strapped to their bodies.
There was no immediate reaction to the video from the Russian security services.
Sochi lies to the west of the Caucasus mountains, which stretch about 745 miles across Chechnya to Dagestan on the Caspian Sea, one of Russia’s most economically distressed regions. Russian forces have been responding to almost daily attacks in the Caucasus by Muslim extremists since the two separatist wars that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Russia will do “whatever it takes” to prevent a terrorist attack at the Olympics, Putin said in an interview broadcast yesterday on ABC’s This Week program.
“We have adequate means available to us” including the Russian intelligence service and the military, he said. “If necessary, all those tools will be activated.”
Rep. Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican who is chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said on the ABC program that any possible attacks would be most likely against “soft targets” such as transportation systems outside the perimeter of the Games. He said cooperation between Russia and the U.S. on security for the Olympics “could be a lot better” and that the U.S. has offered military assistance.
Echoing the concern about inadequate cooperation on security were Rep. Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican who heads the House Intelligence Committee, and Michael Morrell, former deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency, both appearing on CBS’s Face the Nation.
Putin also said he doesn’t see any need for the repeal of Russia’s gay-propaganda law even after the measure prompted criticism within Russia and internationally.
“The law we adopted does not hurt anybody,” Putin said.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)