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MOSCOW, December 6 (R-Sport) - Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) has been given powers to veto any plans for protests in the Winter Olympic host city of Sochi.
All “gatherings, protests, demonstrations, marches and pickets” in Sochi and the surrounding area that are not part of the Olympics or Paralympics must obtain approval from the FSB, police and local government under a new decree signed by President Vladimir Putin.
The restrictions will run from January 7, a month before the Olympic opening ceremony, until March 21, five days after the end of the Paralympics. They could be used to bar protests over Russia’s controversial law against “gay propaganda”, which has already provoked widespread international criticism.
There could also be campaigns by representatives of the Circassian people, who lived in the area where Sochi now stands until their homeland was conquered by Russia in the 19th century and the majority were either expelled or killed.
There are fears too that Islamist groups in Russia’s North Caucasus could attempt to stage terrorist attacks after one insurgent leader called on fighters to “compromise” the Games.
“The need for these changes has been dictated by the presence of various protest groups who want to use the platform of the Games to organize various campaigns,” the FSB said in an online statement released with the decree Thursday.
Restrictions on movement in and around Sochi will be introduced from January 7 through March 21, with “controlled” and “forbidden” zones. The controlled zones cover all Olympic venues and infrastructure, including the coastal Olympic Park and the mountain cluster of skiing facilities, as well as all transport hubs.
The forbidden zones will include the border area separating Russia from neighboring Abkhazia, just a few kilometers east of Sochi, as well as the Sochi National Park, an environmentally protected area.
The government has also tightened the mandatory registration system for Russian citizens visiting Sochi.
The FSB said that the measures “will make it possible to increase the effectiveness of security measures” for the Olympics and Paralympics and would not require additional government funds.
Some restrictions on protest have been present at all recent Olympics. In Beijing in 2008, Chinese authorities introduced a strict permit system for protests and arrested some demonstrators. At last year’s London Olympics, protests were restricted near venues but a number of demonstrations took place in other parts of the city during the Games.
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