Russian agents have foiled terror attack plans on the Black Sea resort of Sochi, host of the 2014 Winter Games, and seized a large amount of weapons and ammunition, authorities say.
The FSB secret service agency discovered ten caches of arms and ammunition on May 4 and May 5 in Georgia’s breakaway republic of Abkhazia. The region is very close to Sochi.
The arms seized included portable surface-to-air missiles, grenade launchers, flame throwers, grenades, rifles and explosives including TNT.
The FSB said it suspects the attacks targeting Sochi were being masterminded by Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov, whom it alleges has close ties to Georgia’s secret service. The secret service said Umarov co-ordinated the delivery of the weapons and ammunition to Abkhazia and arranged caches for them.
Umarov has previously claimed responsibility for the 2011 deadly bombing in a Moscow airport that killed 35 people.
Authorities said the terrorists were planning to smuggle the explosives and arms to Sochi “between 2012 and 2014 in order to use them during the preparations and during the games.”
Sochi is less than dozen miles away from Russia’s border with Abkhazia, a tiny region on the Black Sea that declared independence from Georgia in 2008.
Georgia and Russia, both former Soviet republics, had a brief but intense war in 2008 and are still very distrustful of each other.
However, Shota Khizanishvili, chief of staff at Georgia’s Interior Ministry, denied any links between Georgia and Umarov.
Sochi’s selection as the host of the 2014 Winter Games had sparked fears of possible terrorist activity, although no attacks have occurred so far. The city is located in the same area as Russia’s volatile North Caucasus region, which is plagued with near-daily violence linked to an Islamist insurgency that spread from Chechnya to neighbouring areas in the late 1990s.
The International Olympic Committee would not comment on the specific case at Sochi but said in a statement that “security is a top priority for the IOC.
“Security at the games is the responsibility of the local authorities and we have no doubt that the Russians will be up to the task,” the statement said.