Putin orders Russian security on high alert before Olympics

Thu Feb 14, 2013 12:40pm EST
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By Thomas Grove

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered security forces to be on high alert on Thursday to protect against attacks by militants ahead of next year's Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Russia, which this week hosts the G-20 meeting of major world economies, is battling an Islamist insurgency in the Caucasus region which grew out of two separatist wars in its Chechnya province since the fall of the Soviet Union.

In Russia's Caucasus province of Dagestan, a suicide bomber killed three policemen on Thursday, detonating explosives when police stopped his car for a routine documents check on the outskirts of the city of Khasavyurt.

Police later killed six militants in a shootout nearby, Russia's Anti-terrorism Committee (NAK)said.

Putin told senior officers from the Federal Security Service domestic intelligence agency that "all anti-terrorist forces should be at the highest level of alertness and readiness."

"The most important thing here is the protection of people's lives," he said in remarks broadcast on national television.

"It is necessary to provide reliable anti-terrorist protection of...large-scale public, international events soon to take place in our country," he said.

Putin, who rose to prominence by crushing the Chechen separatist rebellion, is seeking to boost Russia's prominence by hosting more high-profile international events such as the G-20 and the World Cup in 2018. He has ordered security officials to make sure both events are secure.   Continued...

A police car is seen damaged by an explosion near a security checkpoint in the city of Khasavyurt, in the province of Dagestan, February 14, 2013. A suicide bomber killed three policemen and injured another six at a police security checkpoint early on Thursday, Russian investigators said, in the volatile North Caucasus region, where the Kremlin is fighting to staunch an Islamist insurgency. REUTERS/Abdula Magomedov/NewsTeam/Handout