GROZNY, Russia, January 28 (R-Sport) – With the start of the Winter Games in Sochi just 10 days away, the Olympic flame toured the capital of formerly war-torn Chechnya on Tuesday.
The final torchbearer in the city of Grozny was regional government head Ramzan Kadyrov, a former warlord who has been accused of repeated human rights abuses in Chechnya, which was riven by two wars in the 1990s and early 2000s.
“We are sure that Grozny has prepared the most solemn and colorful ceremony for the relay,” Kadyrov said in comments on his Instagram page. “We wish beautiful victories for our athletes.”
Dressed in multicolored Olympic torchbearer garb, Kadyrov led a delegation to collect the flame at the city’s airport and escorted its passage through the city in a white Mercedes Benz along streets named after Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and Kadyrov’s father Akhmad, a former Chechen president who was assassinated in 2004.
Kadyrov then held the torch himself at the city’s Ahmad-Arena football stadium. Torch relays in Chechnya and other cities in the restive North Caucasus have been noticeably shorter than those elsewhere in Russia and confined to central, well-secured areas such as stadiums.
Routes through some of the more dangerous areas have been trimmed for security reasons, following twin suicide bombings in the nearby city of Volgograd in December that claimed 34 lives.
Putin and the International Olympic Committee have expressed confidence that the February 7-23 Olympic Games will be secure.
As well as Kadyrov, other torchbearers Tuesday included former WBO light middleweight boxing champion Zaurbek Baysangurov and London 2012 Olympic wrestling gold medalist Dzhamal Otarsultanov.
Grozny is the latest stop on the record-breaking 123-day Olympic relay, covering 65,000km across the world's largest country.