ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) â€” Widespread crime and the ever-present threat of terrorist attacks by Chechen rebels have caused organizers to employ special bomb squads at the World Hockey Championships.
The International Ice Hockey Federation and Russian police forces have decided the arenas must be searched each day by specialists with dogs trained to detect bombs and drugs.
The championships start Saturday, and run through May 14.
``We have war and we have a difficult crime situation in Russia,'' said Col. Sergei Kolchin, chief of Russia's special canine forces. ``So we are doing all we can to provide the security needed.''
Last week, Chechen rebels opened fire on police stations in two Chechen towns under Russian control.
The rebels also are blamed in a series of apartment bombings in Russia that killed about 300 people in September. The rebels have inflicted heavy casualties recently, and official figures put the death toll for federal troops at more than 1,800 since the military entered Chechnya in September.
Rene Fasel, president of the IIHF, downplayed the actual danger, saying St. Petersburg was no more dangerous than New York in terms of crime, but admitted that the threat of terrorist attacks had necessitated heightened security for the tournament.
Kolchin said 100 specialists with their dogs will work daily during the championships. He said 60 of them with dogs taught to find different kinds of explosives and drugs will work on the arenas and in the hotels where all the guest and participants will stay.
In preparation for any situation, antiterrorist squads also executed hostage-release exercises.