Russia began a counter-terrorism operation in a southern province that borders the Krasnodar region, where the Winter Olympics will be held in Sochi in less than a month, after six bodies were found in abandoned cars.
The security swoop started today at midnight in two districts of the Stavropol region and will include "special measures and temporary restrictions," the local government said in a website statement. Six bodies riddled with bullets were found yesterday in parked cars, state-run RIA Novosti reported.
An explosive device planted near one of the vehicles blew up without causing any injuries as police examined the scene, the regional branch of the Interior Ministry said on its website. A criminal case was opened into the incidents, with the Federal Security Service joining the probe, the Investigative Committee said.
A Russian Cossack lights a candle near a photo of Russian police sergeant who was killed in a suicide bomb blast in the southern Russian city of Volgograd on December 29.
The killings are heightening concerns about security in the region days after more than 30 people died in two bomb attacks in Volgograd in southern Russia and a blast in the Stavropol regional city of Pyatigorsk killed three on December 27. The authorities sealed off Sochi by deploying 30,000 soldiers and police officers around the Black Sea resort, where the games are set to kick off on February 7.
Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates said Australian athletes at next month's Games would be carefully monitored.
“We offer our condolences to the families of those killed by this atrocity. We maintain our confidence in the Russian authorities being able to provide a safe environment for the athletes in Sochi. And our position remains that none of our athletes are to travel by car , bus or train to or from Sochi (they are all traveling by air); and nor are they to train, compete or holiday elsewhere in Russia”.
Heightened alert ... Security personnel walk in the Olympic Park in the Coastal Cluster on Thursday in Alder, Russia. The Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics start on February 6.
President Vladimir Putin called for increased security across the country in the aftermath of the Volgograd bombings, calling the attacks "inhuman" in his New Year's Eve address. Russia is spending at least $US48 billion to stage the games, more than any other previous organiser.
The regions of Krasnodar and Stavropol border North Caucasus republics, where Russian forces face almost daily attacks by Muslim extremists after two separatist wars since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
An alleged female suicide bomber was detained on a passenger bus today in the Stavropol region, NTV television broadcaster reported, without saying where it got the information.
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev visited the Kursky train station in Moscow today and inspected the security measures implemented there, according to the government's website. Further counter-terrorism precautions should be put in place at major transport hubs, he said.
All liquids will be banned in carry-on luggage at Russian airports as passenger jets remain vulnerable to the threat of terror attacks, Rosaviatsiya, the state airline watchdog, said on its website yesterday.