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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Security Ramped Up for Summit

ReutersA military helicopter this week patrolling the skies above the Gulf of Finland.
Police helicopters are buzzing over the rooftops of St. Petersburg. Thousands of policemen are patrolling the city's streets and conducting document checks on trains and buses. The city's airport, seaport and even its largest cemetery are going to shut down for four days.

These are just some of the extraordinary security measures authorities are taking in advance of the Group of Eight summit, which kicks off Saturday in the country's northern capital and increases the risk of terrorist attack in the city.

The scale of the police presence at the G8 summit is reminiscent of security during the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, when Muscovites left the city in droves, the streets were filled with security agents and policemen, and the homeless were removed from the streets and packed off beyond the city limits.

Deputy Interior Minister Alexander Chekalin said Tuesday that in addition to the city's regular police force, some 2,000 police and 260 traffic officers had been brought in from across the country to beef up security.

The heavy police presence in St. Petersburg has already produced results, Chekalin said. The number of minor crimes in the city has fallen by one-third in the last week, and the number of serious crimes has been cut in half, he said.

Both terminals at Pulkovo Airport will be closed to commercial flights for four days, from midnight on Thursday until midnight on Monday. Only airplanes carrying summit delegations will be allowed to land and take off during this period.

City authorities have decided to close the Neva River to navigation during the summit.

Drawbridges along the river will not be raised at night to allow large vessels to pass from Friday to Tuesday, Itar-Tass reported.

The raising of the six bridges that span the Neva is usually a popular attraction for tourists during the so-called white nights in late June and early July.

The St. Petersburg seaport, which normally receives dozens of cruise ships each day, will also be closed from Friday to Tuesday, senior port authority official Pyotr Parinov said.

Extra check points will be set up on the road from the city center to the Sosnovy Bor suburb, where the Leningrad nuclear power plant is located, Interfax reported.

Although the summit is scheduled to be held in Strelna, which lies in the south of the city, St. Petersburg traffic police have advised motorists to avoid the city center during the summit in order to prevent traffic jams, which would almost certainly occur because of the severe traffic restrictions that will be imposed to allow official delegations to move easily through the city.

Of all St. Petersburg's residents, those living in Strelna will be hardest-hit by the security measures. Some 800 Strelna residents have received special passes that allow them access to the so-called green zone near Konstantinov Palace, the main summit venue, Interfax reported.

Authorities in St. Petersburg's Petrodvortsovsky district, which includes Strelna, have warned local residents against inviting guests to their homes during the summit, since people without a special pass will not be allowed to enter the area, Interfax reported.

Police have expelled large numbers of foreigners lacking proper registration from the city in the run-up to the summit.

They have also carried out checks on locals deemed to be potential troublemakers, Petrodvortsovsky district authorities said in a statement released to the press.

Officials have also closed Yuzhnoye cemetery, the largest in the city, for the duration of the summit. No burials or visitors will be allowed during this period.