Olympics: Putin tightens Sochi security for visitors

15th November 2013, Comments 0 comments

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday signed a decree severely tightening security in Winter Olympic host city Sochi for visitors without accreditation in a bid to screen visitors.

The decree, published in the official database, requires all Russians to register personally with local migration authorities within three days of arrival, instead of the usual 30 days.

Non-Russians who do not require a visa will have to go through the process within 24 hours, instead of the usual week.

The process is waived for those with official accreditation with Olympic organisers, or those staying in hotels, both of which already require identity information.

The tighter security in the Olympic city expands the range of restrictions to be imposed in Sochi between January 7 and March 21.

The restrictions include closing the border with Georgia's rebel region of Abkhazia, reinforced checks at train stations and airports, road checkpoints, and a vast "forbidden zone" in the mountains above the city that separate it from the restive North Caucasus regions.

Another controversial provision prohibits any public demonstration "not related to the holding of the Olympic Games" in that three months-period.

The Games themselves are to be held February 7-23, 2014. The Paralympics will be staged March 7-16.

The unprecedented measures were denounced by many observers who said they practically impose a state of emergency in the city of 300,000. Local businessmen and store owners complain that transportation restrictions will make it impossible to operate.

The event has already been mired in controversy over property rights, environment, corruption, and, most recently, gay rights issues.

Sochi's location in close proximity to unstable Abkhazia and the turbulent North Caucasus regions, with an active Islamist insurgency, has also been criticised.

Earlier this year, the Islamist warlord Doku Umarov called on militants to stage attacks against the Sochi Games, saying in a video that jihadists must "exert maximum efforts" to prevent the international event from happening.

© 2013 AFP

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