Russia will avoid turning Sochi into a “concentration camp” even as it takes extra precautions to counter threats of terrorist attacks during next year’s Winter Olympics, the Federal Security Service said.
“The security measures are aimed not only at making the Games safe but also ensuring a comfortable environment,” said Alexei Lavrishchev, a spokesman for the FSB, as the main successor to the Soviet-era KGB is known in Russian. “The city won’t become a concentration camp,” Lavrishchev told reporters in Moscow today.
Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov, who has claimed responsibility for three of Russia’s deadliest terror attacks, released a video in July calling on Islamic militants to target the February Games. He urged insurgents to “do your utmost to derail these satanic dances on the bones of our ancestors.”
Umarov claimed responsibility for organizing the January 2011 suicide bombing at Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport that killed 37 people. The self-styled emir of a pan-North Caucasus Islamic state also said he planned the attacks on the capital’s subway system by female suicide bombers in March 2010 that killed 40 people and the November 2009 bombing of the Nevsky Express train between Moscow and St. Petersburg that killed 28.
President Vladimir Putin stepped up security in the North Caucasus region near the Black Sea after two ethnic Chechen brothers became suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing in April. Russia is collaborating with the law-enforcement agencies of more than 80 countries to identify possible threats to the Games, and some of these states will send intelligence agents to Sochi during the event, Lavrishchev said.
Putin this year accepted a proposal by U.S. President Barack Obama and U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, whose country hosted the 2012 Summer Olympics, to have their respective special services cooperate on security in Sochi.
Russia is working to neutralize the risk of Russian militants returning from the conflict in Syria to target the Olympics, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview in June. Putin that month said at least 600 militants from Russia and European countries are fighting against President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in Syria.
Russia has spent more than $50 billion on preparations for the competition, the most ever for a Winter Games.