Russia says it foiled terrorist attacks in Sochi

Russian agents have foiled terror attack plans on the Black Sea

resort of Sochi, host of the 2014 Winter Olympics, authorities said

Thursday, blaming Chechen separatists and neighboring Georgia of

jointly masterminding the plans.

Georgian authorities and security experts, however, called the

accusations ”paranoid” and ”hard to believe.”

Russia’s National Anti-Terrorist Committee said the FSB, the

successor agency to the KGB, had discovered ten caches of weapons

and ammunition on May 4 and May 5 in Georgia’s breakaway republic

of Abkhazia, which lies just miles from Sochi.

The arms seized included portable surface-to-air missiles,

grenade launchers, flame throwers, grenades, rifles, explosives and

maps, the security service said.

Authorities said the terrorists were planning to smuggle the

explosives and arms into Sochi ”between 2012 and 2014 to use them

during the preparations and during the games.” They did not

elaborate on how they came to this conclusion.

Sochi is less than dozen miles away from Russia’s border with

Abkhazia, a tiny province on the Black Sea that declared

independence from Georgia in 2008. Few countries other than Russia

have supported its independence and it remains roiled by political

unrest.

The FSB said it suspects the mastermind behind the plans

targeting Sochi is Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov, whom it

alleges has close ties to Georgia’s secret service. The secret

service said Umarov had coordinated 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. The ailing

Chechen separatist is widely seen as the nominal leader of

fractured groups of Islamists and separatists in Russia’s volatile

North Caucasus region.

Georgia and Russia had a brief but intense war in 2008 and are

still very distrustful of each other. Georgia has accused Russia of

sending spies and supporting a failed coup to topple pro-Western

President Mikhail Saakashvili and has urged the world to boycott

the Sochi Games.

On Thursday, Shota Khizanishvili, the chief of staff at

Georgia’s Interior Ministry, denied any links between Georgia and

Umarov.

”I can only say that the National Anti-Terrorist Committee is

staffed with people with peculiar fantasies,” Khizanishvili told

The Associated Press. ”They’re always trying to accuse Georgia and

its secret services of everything in any situation and without any

grounds. This is a sign of severe paranoia.”

A regional security expert agreed that the Russian accusations

were ”hard to believe.”

”(Georgian authorities) can hardly side with separatists and

organize diversions,” Akhmet Yarlykapov of the Moscow-based

Ethnology and Anthropology Institute told the AP.

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 North Caucasus,

which is plagued with near-daily violence linked to an Islamist

insurgency that spread from the province of Chechnya to neighboring

areas in the late 1990s.

The International Olympic Committee would not comment on the

specific security 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.

Misha Dzhindzhikhashvili from Tbilisi, Georgia, and sports

writer Stephen Wilson in London contributed to this report.