Moscow airports ban carry-on liquids ahead of Games

MOSCOW - Moscow's two main international airports Wednesday announced a flat ban on all carry-on liquids as part of a mass security clampdown ahead of next month's Sochi Winter Games.

Sheremetyevo and Vnukovo airports handle the vast majority of Russia's international air traffic and will receive the bulk of foreign fans arriving for the February 7-23 sports festivities on the shores of the Black Sea.

Their joint move caught many Russians off guard and sparked a furious online debate about a measure that appears to extend to medication and cosmetics.

Russia this week launched the largest security operation in Olympic history that is meant to ward off the threat of Islamist violence following twin suicide attacks in the southern hub of Volgograd last month.

The December 29-30 bombings left 34 dead and sparked fears of a renewed terror campaign by militants from the nearby North Caucasus who have threatened attacks before and during the Games.

Sheremetyevo airport said on its website that the ban covers "all liquids, including personal hygiene items, cosmetics, medicine, liquids, sprays and gels in any amount."

The restrictions - adopted by the Federal Air Transport Agency (Rosaviatsiya) - apply until March 21. The two airports had previously let passengers take up to 100 millilitres (3.4 ounces) of liquids on board their flights.

Security has been a prime concerns ever since President Vladimir Putin beat extreme odds in 2007 to bring Russia's first post-Soviet Games to the Black Sea summer resort.

Russia on Tuesday saw soldiers in armoured vehicles and navy officers on the Black Sea join a 37,000-strong contingent overseeing security in and around Sochi.

A Kremlin decree also establishes a so-called "forbidden zone" around Sochi that blocks highways into the city and prevents all residents from using roads leading to Olympic venues without special permits.

Security analysts argue the mass attention devoted to safety around Olympic venues may have left Russia exposed to attacks at other locations.

But the stringent new airport restrictions sparked complaints from some Russians.

Russia's Aeroflot flagship airline notably said travellers will be stripped of prescribed medication unless they can prove it needs to be used during flights.

"This is really inconvenient," a man who identified himself as Yevgeny Koval complained on Aeroflot's Twitter account.