Skip to main content

Russia: Six deaths, car blast prompt security sweep ahead of Games in Sochi

By Laura Smith-Spark and Nic Robertson, CNN
updated 2:18 AM EST, Fri January 10, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Russian authorities are looking into 6 suspicious deaths in southern Russia
  • Stavropol territory borders the province where the Winter Olympics will be held in Sochi
  • Explosive material and the bodies of 3 men were found in a vehicle Thursday
  • A vehicle containing a body exploded Wednesday; two other bodies were found nearby

Moscow (CNN) -- Russian authorities are investigating six suspicious deaths and at least one car explosion this week about 240 kilometers (150 miles) from the site of next month's Winter Olympics, they said Thursday.

The deaths in southern Russia's Stavropol territory, which borders the province where the Olympics will be held in Sochi, have prompted security forces to conduct an anti-terrorism sweep there, state-run RIA Novosti news agency said. It's one of the latest moves to address security concerns before the games.

The bodies of three men and explosive material were found Thursday in a vehicle in Maryinskaya in Stavropol province, Russia's Investigative Committee said on its website.

A day earlier, a vehicle containing a body exploded in Tambukan, in the same province, as police approached it, and two other bodies were found in other vehicles in Zolskaya Wednesday, the Investigative Committee said.

The latest alert comes amid heightened concern about security following twin bombings on public transit in the southern city of Volgograd at the end of last month.

No group has claimed responsibility for those attacks, but suspicion has fallen on Chechen separatist groups.

Three people also died last month in a car bombing in the city of Pyatigorsk, in Stavropol territory.

Dmitri Trenin, director of the Moscow Carnegie Center, said it appeared that the latest killings may be the work of Islamist militants from the tiny North Caucasus republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, which neighbors Stavropol territory.

The militants have carried out similar attacks on taxi drivers and other ordinary people in the past three to four years, he said. They are motivated by a vendetta against the local police and authorities and, more broadly, against the secular Russian state.

The latest security incidents are not likely to be directly linked to the Winter Olympics in Sochi but are part of a bigger picture of unrest in the North Caucasus region, Trenin said. They are receiving more attention than usual because of the upcoming games, he added.

There has been no official confirmation that militants from Kabardino-Balkaria were involved in the suspicious deaths in Stavropol territory.

Cossacks boost Sochi security

A special exclusion zone went into force in Sochi on Tuesday, under which access to the Black Sea resort town is heavily restricted.

About 400 Cossacks arrived Thursday in Sochi, where they will be deployed to assist the police during the games and provide security for visiting athletes and tourists, RIA Novosti said.

They will accompany police patrols in full traditional uniform, including fur hats and swords, the news agency said, in a move that carries echoes of Tsarist Russia. The Cossacks are known for their military prowess.

Security analysts have warned that terrorists targeting the games may try to strike elsewhere in Russia against softer targets than those in Sochi.

Chechen warlord Doku Umarov, leader of the Islamist Caucasus Emirate group, last summer called on his followers to do what they could to disrupt the games.

One month before Olympics, Russia puts Sochi under high security

CNN's Laura Smith-Spark wrote and reported in London and Nic Robertson reported from Moscow. CNN's Alla Eshchenko contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 7:42 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
It was supposed to be a class trip to a resort island. Instead, the ferry capsized, turning the afternoon into a deadly nightmare.
updated 1:31 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
It's hard not to be nervous, standing outside the Ebola isolation wards.
updated 8:58 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Ukraine says it's forces have regained control of an airfield from Russian separatists. Nick Paton Walsh reports.
updated 7:35 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
An "extraordinary" video shows what looks like the largest and most dangerous gathering of al Qaeda in years.
updated 8:30 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Explore each side's case, reconstructed from Pistorius' court affidavit and the prosecution's case during last year's bail hearing.
updated 5:16 PM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Officials are launching their next option: an underwater vehicle to scan the ocean floor.
updated 1:53 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
How are police preparing for this year's 26.2-mile marathon, which takes place Monday?
updated 1:02 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Katrina Karkazis
Romance is hard, for anyone. For people with intersex traits, love poses unique challenges.
updated 8:38 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Suisse's Belinda Bencic returns the ball to France's Alize Cornet during the second match of the Fed Cup first round tennis tie France vs Switzerland on February 8, 2014 at the Pierre de Coubertin stadium in Paris. AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)
It's no easy matter becoming a world class tennis player. It's even harder when everyone (really -- everyone) is calling you the "new Martina Hingis".
updated 5:26 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
The "kill switch," a system for remotely disabling smartphones and wiping their data, will become standard in 2015.
updated 12:32 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Browse through images you don't always see on news reports from CNN teams around the world.
updated 2:51 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Sky gazers caught a glimpse of the "blood moon" crossing the Earth's shadow Tuesday in all its splendor.
updated 11:09 AM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
A staff stands next to the propellers of Sun-powered plane Solar Impulse 2 HB-SIB seen in silhouette during its first exit for test on April 14, 2014 in Payerne, a year ahead of their planned round-the-world flight. Solar Impulse 2 is the successor of the original plane of the same name, which last year completed a trip across the United States without using a drop of fuel. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
This solar-powered aircraft will attempt to circle the globe next year.
ADVERTISEMENT