In a video dated June 2013, Doku Umarov said his followers must use “maximum force” to ensure the Games do not take place.
After claiming responsibility for deadly attacks on the Moscow metro and Moscow’s Domodedovo airport, Umarov last year declared a ceasefire inside Russia as protests against the Kremlin leadership gripped the capital. In the video he said Vladimir Putin, the president, had mistaken the move for weakness.
“Today we must show those who live in the Kremlin … that our kindness is not weakness,” Umarov said, speaking in a forest and dressed in green camouflage. “They plan to hold the Olympics on the bones of our ancestors, on the bones of many, many dead Muslims buried on our land by the Black Sea. We as mujahideen are required not to allow that, using any methods that Allah allows us.”
Security concerns over the Olympics, to be held in February 2014, are running very high, with Sochi just 250 miles from the republics of Chechnya and Dagestan, where most of Russia’s rebels are based.
During a visit by Putin and David Cameron to Sochi in May, the two leaders said Russia and Britain’s security services would co-operate on security before the Games.
Russia has also reached out to the US and Georgia, two countries with which it has poor relations, to co-operate on security, moves that reflect both Russian and global concern over potential violence at the event.
Umarov called on his followers to use “maximum force … to disrupt these satanic games to be held on the bones of our ancestors”.
Umarov, the leader of an umbrella organisation comprising branches of regional rebel groups throughout Russia, relies on video messages to get his messages out, both to leaders in the Kremlin and to his followers around the country. He is believed to be hiding in the mountains between Chechnya and Dagestan.
He has claimed responsibility for a number of spectacular attacks on Russian soil, including suicide bombings on the Moscow metro in 2010, which killed 40 people, and at Domodedovo airport in 2011, which killed 37.
Russian state-run media, usually quick to denounce Umarov, did not report his threat. RIA-Novosti, a state-owned news agency, carried a statement by Russia’s anti-terrorist committee saying it was taking measures to “protect Russian citizens” and was “paying special attention to questions of preparation for hold major sporting events of a global scale”.