SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Russian police clashed on Wednesday with local people opposed to the destruction of their homes under plans for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, during a tour by Olympic inspectors.
A resident said police beat some people and detained several others at a local cemetery near the site for the main Olympic venues, during a traditional visit to relatives’ graves ahead of the Russian Orthodox Easter on Sunday.
In a statement, police in the Black Sea resort of Sochi denied beating anyone, saying they were only trying to prevent a group of about 100 local residents from disrupting the IOC inspection.
Locals in Nizhne-Imeretinskaya Bukhta have been protesting over the Olympic construction plans, which are likely to involve the demolition of some houses in the settlement, but deny they were planning to stage a protest there.
“We were at the cemetery. Our village was surrounded by police. There were 200 of them. They did not let anyone in or out. They came to the cemetery and beat people up,” local resident Andrei Korutun told Reuters by telephone.
One local official “grabbed my wife, who is pregnant, by the stomach and threw her to the ground,” he said.
Police parked buses to conceal the cemetery from the visiting IOC officials, who were about 800 metres (yards) away at the time of the clashes, Korutun said.
“We shouted out to them for help, we are sure they would have heard,” he added.
Sochi police said in a statement that reports “in some media about a supposed fight between Sochi police officers and Sochi residents, about people being beaten, are not true.”
Steps had been taken to ensure public order in line with normal practice in Russia and other countries, it added.
Russian Olympic officials say very few homes will be demolished to make way for games venues, and that owners will be properly compensated.
Reporting by Chris Baldwin, Christian Lowe and Tatiana Ustinova; Writing by Christian Lowe; editing by Jon Boyle
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