MOSCOW -- The Kremlin understands the scope of the terrorism problem it faces in the run-up to the Sochi Winter Olympics and is taking ample measures to prevent any potential attacks, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an interview that aired Sunday.
“We do everything with ... the clear understanding of the operational situation developing around Sochi and in the region as a whole,” Putin said in an interview recorded Friday in Sochi with a number of Russian and foreign television networks, including ABC.
“We have a perfect understanding of the scope of the threat and how to deal with it and how to prevent it. I hope that our law enforcement agencies will deal with it with honor and dignity, the way it was during other major sports and political events,” he said.
About 40,000 police and special forces officers will be enforcing security at the Games under the command of a special round-the-clock headquarters, Putin said. Also, as of Jan. 7, a special regime of people and vehicles was introduced in the area around Sochi, he said.
“Our task as organizers is to ensure the security of athletes and guests at this major sports event, and we will do our best," the president said. “We will protect our air and sea space as well as the mountain cluster.”
Putin added that the concentration of measures in and around Sochi will not undermine security in other parts of Russia.
“We have enough such means provided by the Federal Security Service, the Interior Ministry and the army units that will be engaged in ensuring security too, as I have already said, across the sea area and in the airspace,” Putin said.
“If anybody feels it is necessary for them to employ their own security measures, those are welcome as well, but it needs, of course, to be done in cooperation with the Olympic Games organizers and our special services.”
Security concerns have grown ahead of the Winter Games after three terrorist attacks have been carried out by suicide bombers, one in October and two at the end of December.
The attacks rocked the Russian industrial center of Volgograd, about 400 miles north of Sochi, killing more than 40 people and injuring dozens. They were followed by a number of lower-scale attacks and bombings in the southern province of Stavropol and in Dagestan, a volatile republic in the restive North Caucasus region.
North Caucasus Islamist resistance commander Duku Umarov declared in a a video statement distributed on the Internet last June that his fighters will use “maximum force” to keep the Sochi Olympic Games from being “held on the bones of our ancestors.”
Last week, the head of Chechnya and Putin's staunchest Caucasus loyalist, Ramzan Kadyrov, said that since then, Umarov has been killed. Kadyrov said he based his assertion on intercepted phone conversations among rebel leaders, but the information has not been confirmed by Russian authorities.
Putin said that in matters of security, Russian officials have been maintaining “a direct professional interaction” with colleagues in other countries.
“Understanding the full scope of problems in terms of security, we still have great experience in hosting such events and we will use it,” he said.
Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times