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Russia begins Olympic security lockdown

Tens of thousands of security personnel deployed in Sochi of Winter Olympics in February.

Last updated: 08 Jan 2014 01:15
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Security concerns are high following two deadly bombings in Volgograd last December [EPA]

Russia has began implementing stringent security measures in its southern resort of Sochi, one month before the start of the Winter Olympics there.

Tens of thousands of Russian police, security agents, rescue workers and soldiers were being deployed on Tuesday for the games, which run February 7 to 23.

Vladimir Puchkov, who heads the Emergency Situations Ministry, said all of his security units for Sochi were on duty as of Tuesday.

In addition, all vehicles were banned from the area beginning except for those registered in Sochi or with special Olympics passes.

Security concerns are high because of an armed uprising by Muslim fighters in the nearby North Caucasus region.

Fears were heightened following two suicide bombings last week in the city of Volgograd, about 600km away, which killed 34 people and wounded scores.

Although there has been no claim of responsibility for the bombings, separatists from the North Caucasus called for attacks aimed at undermining the Olympics.

"This is the final countdown to the Sochi Games," said Al Jazeera's Fred Weir in Moscow. "The entire zone around Sochi, about 100km long and 40km deep, will be sealed off."

Aside from regular security personnel, undercover police and electronic surveillance devices will also be deployed, our correspondent said.

From Tuesday, demonstrations in Sochi not connected with the games will be banned.

President Vladimir Putin last weekend rescinded a blanket ban, but any demonstrations or marches still need to be approved by the Interior Ministry.

Dmitry Chernyshenko, who heads the Sochi 2014 Organising Committee, said: "Every sport venue is fully prepared and has been thoroughly tested, new road and rail routes are ready to transport visitors and rehearsals for the opening ceremony are well under way,'' he said.

Chernyshenko said athletes, coaches and members of the media have all received official accreditations and Russian volunteers and staff were waiting to greet them with the "warmest of welcomes".

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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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