Russia is preparing the biggest and most expensive security operation in Olympic history as the Black Sea resort town of Sochi gets ready to host the 2014 Winter Olympics. In an operation expected to cost some US$2 billion, almost 40,000 troops will patrol the immediate area around Sochi, including special forces that have shoot-to-kill orders if they encounter “separatist militants”.
An additional 30,000 regular troops will patrol the border with the breakaway Georgian republic of Abkhazia.
Sochi itself will fall under what’s being termed a “ring of steel”, with anti-aircraft batteries set up on land while the Black Sea will be patrolled by Russia’s new Grachonok anti-saboteur boats that include teams of special forces divers and sonar equipment to ensure no attackers can approach from the sea. The skies will be protected by squadrons of Mig and Sukhoi fighter jets.
Sochi is already on lockdown, with large sections of the greater Sochi area completely off-limits. Only pre-registered individuals and vehicles with pre-approved license plates will be allowed into the Olympic security zone.
All communication by mobile phone or Internet during the games will be monitored by Russia’s SORM surveillance system.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has promised that the games will be safe, but twin suicide bombings in the nearby city of Volgograd last month highlights the determination of terror-linked groups to make their presence felt during the games. In a video that was released on a Jihadi web forum, self-described militants promised more attacks to come and vowed to “avenge Muslim blood”.
President Putin has pledged that visitors to Sochi have nothing to worry about, and he cited Russia’s experience in holding large events such as the G8 and G20 summits as proof that his nation can maintain security.