MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia’s president ordered intelligence agencies on Monday to step up efforts to secure a volatile region near next year’s Winter Olympics, saying the situation was not improving fast enough.
Vladimir Putin has already signed a decree imposing restrictions on freedom of movement and assembly near Olympic venue Sochi - an order which campaign groups say violates human rights.
“Despite evident positive shifts, the situation in the North Caucasus is improving too slowly,” Putin told his Security Council, a body which advises him on security and defense, five months before the start of the February event.
“Terrorism threats, security concerns have not been finally eradicated,” he added, in comments published on the Kremlin’s website.
The Kremlin has amassed a huge security infrastructure in region around the Black Sea resort town to prevent attacks on the games by Islamist militants involved in nearly daily violence in the nearby North Caucasus.
Putin urged the council to “mobilize all law enforcement bodies” to tighten security.
Rooted in two separatist wars in the North Caucasus province of Chechnya since the fall of the Soviet Union, the insurgency has spilled into Dagestan which is now the focal point of violence.
Putin repeated Russia’s long-standing assertion that foreign powers exploited the turmoil to weaken Russia from within.
“We are also facing destructive anti-Russian activity from a number of foreign states ... which still see North Caucasus as a foothold to destabilize Russia overall, to cause us economic damage, undermine Russia’s global influence and activity,” he said.
He also brushed off criticism of Russia’s human rights record by rights groups and foreign states.
“Let them first of all look after themselves ... They have plenty of violations themselves,” he said.
Reporting By Alexei Anishchuk; Editing by Andrew Heavens