Vladimir Putin puts Russia on high alert for Games

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Russian president Vladimir Putin has ordered security ­forces to be on high alert to protect civilians against attacks by militants ahead of next year’s controversial Winter Olympics in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi.

Russia, which this week hosts the G20 meeting of the world’s richest nations, is battling an Islamist insurgency in the Caucasus region which grew out of two separatist wars in its Chechnya province.

Yesterday in Russia’s Caucasus province of Dagestan, a suicide bomber killed three policemen, detonating explosives when officers stopped his car on the outskirts of the city of Khasavyurt.

Police later killed six militants in a shoot-out nearby, Russia’s anti-terrorism committee (NAK) said.

The latest attack prompted Mr Putin to tell senior officers from the Federal Security Service domestic intelligence agency that “all anti-terrorist forces should be at the highest level of alertness and readiness”.

“The most important thing here is the protection of people’s lives,” he said in remarks broadcast on national television.

“It is necessary to provide reliable anti-terrorist protection of… large-scale public, international events soon to take place in our country,” he added.

Next year’s Olympics in Sochi have been declared a target by the Caucasus Emirate group,.

It has already claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport in January 2011 that killed 37 people.

It also claimed two bombings of Moscow’s metro system in 2010 that killed 40 people.

Militant violence in the Caucasus is rooted in two separatist wars fought in Chechnya in the 1990s until 2000. Since then it has spread to neighbouring regions.