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Fire at the Winter Olympics Continued: The Security of the Games

posted Feb 12, 2014, 5:45 PM by Unknown user   [ updated Feb 12, 2014, 6:51 PM by Unknown user ]
Matthew Bado

With the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi underway, one of the major concerns has been the security of this massive event. Several terrorist groups have threatened to attack the Olympic Games, and the Russian Security Forces seems to resemble a full army, rather than a security force.

The Russian Security Force is led by the Federal Security Service (the FSB, successor to the Soviet-era KGB) which consists of 40,000 multilingual police officers who will form the public face of the security force. They are only the tip of the iceberg, though.

Image courtesy of: (fair use)

The bulk of Russia’s security force is made up for 10,000 military police, several drone squadrons, multiple air-defense batteries, a 70,000 strong Russian Army unit, various support units, two navy gunboats, and 400 Russian Cossacks (horsemen primarily from the Southern parts of Russia, and possibly the first Olympic security team in decades to use swords).

The U.S. government has also sent two ships to patrol the Black Sea during the games, the first of which left its port in late January. This security force is, like many others, primarily a show of force, and is meant to discourage attacks through sheer numbers. But, despite (or in spite of) this, the U.S. ski and snowboard team has hired a private security contractor in case of emergency, and many countries have received threats directed at their athletes.

Any group meetings (protests, demonstrations, etc.) taking place near the Olympics will need to receive approval from Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), local government, and police force. Some critics believe this is an informal gag order on protests against Russia’s already controversial anti-gay legislation (read more about it here).

With restrictions running through Jan. 7 to March 21, movement around Sochi has been restricted with controlled and forbidden zones. These controlled zones have been dubbed the “Ring of Steel” by international press, and cover all Olympic venues.

The Russian Federation’s efforts to suppress insurgents in the Caucuses have been some of the most violent in recent years, and have resulted in thousands dead and even more displaced.

The area of Chechnya, in particular, is one of the most unstable. Following a costly war for independence, the region was left devastated by intense urban fighting such as the battle of Grozny (1994-95) and descended into radicalism and corruption.

Following a second radical war for independence, the majority of rebels were said to have been killed by Russian forces. However, the area remains a major area of violence and insurgency. The current head of the area, Ramzan Kadyrov, is considered by many inhabitants to be nothing more than a corrupt puppet of the central government, and has stirred up even more resentment among Chechens with alleged human rights abuses.

With many rebels and a history of instability, the Caucasus of Russia and Sochi represent one of the most unstable Olympic sites in recent history. How the games turn out in the end remains to be seen, but hopefully the games will go on safely without any major issues.