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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Security on Land and Water

ReutersA laser show projecting over the Neva during anniversary events Tuesday night.
ST. PETERSBURG -- This month's suicide bombings in Chechnya and last year's Chechen rebel raid on the Dubrovka theater are fresh in the minds of authorities planning the security for the tricentennial festivities in St. Petersburg and the visit of scores of world leaders.

Alongside work to buff up the city's architectural treasures, officials have geared up with a range of security measures that are to be especially tight this weekend.

More than 40 world leaders are expected for the culmination of the anniversary celebration, which coincides with a summit of the Commonwealth of Independent States on Friday, a Russia-EU summit Saturday and a meeting between Putin and U.S. President George W. Bush on Sunday.

Earlier this week at the estate on the Gulf of Finland where EU leaders will live and meet with Putin, sappers combed the grounds for explosives. Set back from the road, a handful of mobile anti-aircraft systems stood behind a green barrier.

All trucks and some cars entering St. Petersburg are being checked, and 20,000 police are serving, including 3,500 brought in from elsewhere, police spokesman Yury German said Wednesday.

He said most are working at least 12 hours a day with no days off. The numbers do not include other security bodies.

On Tuesday, a ring of police barriers kept spectators far from officials and cadets during a parade on Palace Square, and black-clad riot police in bulletproof vests contrasted with colorfully dressed Russian Orthodox priests during a religious procession.

Police have been checking attics and basements and knocking on apartment doors along routes the foreign leaders will travel, asking residents whether anyone is living in buildings without the proper registration.

St. Petersburg stands astride rivers and canals, and the CIS summit will be held on a cruise ship. Frogmen will be involved in ensuring security on the city's waterways, Interfax reported.

Putin did not mention security in a television interview Tuesday about the celebrations, but German said terrorism is "doubtless a concern."

"I think we can only assume that the Russians are worried about possible Chechen or other terrorist efforts to disrupt the proceedings in St. Petersburg, and that their security efforts are going to be huge," a senior U.S. diplomat said last week on condition of anonymity.

Stepped-up security often means trouble for dark-skinned people from the south. Tadzhedin Musafirov, a vegetable vendor at a downtown market, said this time around is no exception.

Musafirov, a Tajik who has lived here for 10 years, said he was stopped by police Sunday in his van and that he was staying off the streets as much as possible during the celebrations. "As soon as they see you're not Russian, they stop you," he said.

German said along with terrorism, another concern is street demonstrations. A few hundred Communists, nationalists and anti-globalization activists protested Bush's presence during a visit a year ago, and on May 18 police detained 40 people who tried to protest against the anniversary celebrations and visits by Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Police removed a fake explosive device and an anti-U.S. sign from a roadside in St. Petersburg on Tuesday, Itar-Tass reported.