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  The Kremlin on the Eve of the Winter Olympics

Inga Popovaitë, political commentator
2013 12 04

The Winter Olympics in Sochi is approaching fast and one of the major concerns of the Kremlin is to ensure security during the Olympic Games which will be held in close proximity to the North Caucasus region.

Recently Russia adopted several amendments to the laws related to the fight against terrorism. The law forces terrorists‘ relatives (close people) to pay for damages caused by their attack. The term „close people” refers to those whose lives, health and well-being are valued by the terrorist due to the terrorist‘s personal relationships with the individuals.

Sanctions have also been envisaged for the organisation of fighter training camps (referred to as terrorists in the Law) and for the establishment of terrorist organisations. Individuals convicted of establishing a terrorist organisation can receive 15-20 years in prison and be ordered to pay a fine up to one million roubles. Participation in the activity of such an organisation is punishable to 5-10 years in jail and a fine of 500 thousand roubles. The same applies to the organisers of terrorist training camps.

The tightened laws are among other numerous Kremlin‘s measures aimed at ensuring security of the Sochi Olympics. The website agentura.ru provides extensive information to the guests of the Games; for instance, the ones caring about their privacy, would neither be allowed to use their mobile devices nor free-of-charge wireless Internet while attending the games. Besides, more than 5500 video cameras have been installed in Sochi; they will keep video records from 10 to 90 days.

Advanced technologies, such as unmanned aerial vehicles, will be out to work to ensure that nothing will disturb the smooth running of the Olympic events. By the way, the unmanned drones have also been envisaged for the London Olympic Games but, according to agentura.ru, then it was impossible to get relevant licences.     

The Big Brother will demonstrate its power: it is expected that 40,000 police officers will be deployed in Sochi to provide security in the city; the system of sonars will be deployed to detect and identify submarines in the Black Sea. But, according to Russia‘s Federal Security Board (FSB), the city of Sochi will not be like a concentration camp. „Security at the Sochi Games would be invisible”, said spokesman of FSB Alexei Lavrishchev.

However, when listening to some Russian politicians it seems that these measures are not sufficient. During a TV talk show „Poedinok“ of Russian TV channel „Rossija 1“ Vice Chairman of the Duma Vladimir Zhirinovsky advocated erecting a barbered wire fence to separate North Caucasus from the rest of Russian Federation and taking measures to reduce the birth rate of the Muslims by imposing a financial penalty for the birth of a third child. These words triggered outrage in North Caucasus. In his „Instigram“ post the Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov called Zhirinovsky an „immoral and pitiful politician“, and Chechen Government informed that it will take actions to dismiss Zhirinovsky from his post for inciting interethnic hatred. Dagestan, Ingushetia and North Ossetia have also called for Zhirinovsky to be dismissed from his post.   

What was Moscow‘s response to the above? In fact, there was no response at all. During the meeting with Zhirinovsky Russian President only said that his position „is in contradiction with the country’s fundamental interests“. Of course, this is an important statement, but this might not be enough for the outraged North Caucasus.

Vladimir Zhirinovsky is well-known for his hate speech, but he is not the only one to pronounce similar ideas. For instance, after the march of the Russian nationalists, Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of the „Russia Today“ TV channel wrote in her blog that in order to retain a Christian Russia, the Russians have no other way out but to increase birth rates and pursue a more active assimilation policy.

Nationalist and anti-Muslim moods have always prevailed in Russian community. But on the eve of the Olympic Games such an open hatred to non-Russian nationals is especially dangerous. Why the Kremlin allows this hatred to grow between the ethnic Russians and other Russia’s nationals?  

If Russia was a democratic country, the hate speech and comments could be partially justified by the freedom of speech or by saying that these comments do not reflect the Kremlin‘s position. But reality in Russia is different; here nothing happens without the consent of the Kremlin. Thus, an official permit to arrange nationalist demonstrations, offensive comments of the editor-in-chief of a pro-Kremlin TV channel, and no actions against Vladimir Zhirinovsky demonstrate that the Kremlin has nothing against such nationalist breakthroughs. One is clear: the outburst of nationalist and anti-Islamic ideas in Russia will not contribute to the security of the Sochi Olympic Games.

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