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The Sochi challenge stares Putin in the face.

For all of Russian President Vladimir Putin's recent foreign policy misadventures, it would appear that there is an enormous domestic disaster waiting to happen. It comes in the form of rampant attacks from Chechen rebels from across the mountains of Sochi, the venue for next month's much publicised Winter Olympic Games. The Russian security forces and Chechen rebels -- who have been seeking full independence even before substantial autonomy was granted to Chechnya in 1996 -- have fought constantly and ruthlessly for decades. Thousands have lost their lives as Putin focused on wiping out the rebel leadership.

Currently rudderless, the present lot of separatists now battle on simply for revenge. Moscow will therefore have to pull out all stops to convince the world that it is capable of hosting an incident-free Winter Olympics which, in a manner of speaking, is going to be Putin's

biggest advertisement for Russia. The Russian president has made several adminsitrative concessions to appease his critics. The freeing of political prisoners recently is a case in point, but with the Chechnya problem hanging over his head, he has no option but to seek peace by going to war. The recent terrorist attacks have humiliated the Kremlin despite its boasts for putting up adequate security. It can leave no stone unturned to provide for the well-being of several thousand international athletes as they descend for the Winter Olympics.

Putin will have to talk tough or risk having egg on his face.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:4EXRU
Date:Jan 2, 2014
Words:258
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