World View: Russia Plans Intensive Surveillance of Visitors to Sochi Olympics

This morning's key headlines from

  • Russia plans intensive surveillance of visitors to Sochi Olympics
  • EU officials jeered and heckled on visit to Lampedusa Island
  • Congressmen forced to reuse gym towels

Russia plans intensive surveillance of visitors to Sochi Olympics

Sochi 2014 Olympics site construction (AFP)
Sochi 2014 Olympics site construction (AFP)

Russia is planning near total surveillance of all visitors to the Winter Olympics, to be held February 7-23, 2014, in Sochi, Russia, as well as athletes and journalists. The good news is that Russia will provide all visitors with free, fast internet services that will be a pleasure to use, provided that you don't mind that each and every digital communication passing through the city's telephone and internet services will be intercepted.

In addition, Russia is doing everything possible to make sure that there are no protests in Sochi, and that there isn't even any negative media coverage. Russia is barring journalists from visiting Sochi if they've written things in the past critical of Russia's government.

Russia's ban on public protests is mainly targeting one category of protesters -- the Circassians. Russia has admitted that when they were awarded the rights to the 2014 Winter Olympics in the beautiful Black Sea resort of Sochi, they underestimated a very important issue: the ethnic Circassians. As I first reported in "30-Oct-10 News -- Caucasus terrorism / politics becomes embroiled in 2014 Olympics", the region around Sochi used to be the home of ethnic Circassians. But they were slaughtered and driven out of Sochi by the Russians in a generational crisis war that climaxed in a massive genocidal battle in 1864. And that makes 2014 the 150th anniversary of that climactic battle. In the three years since I first reported on it, the Circassian situation has gone from an obscure little known problem to a major issue facing the 2014 Olympics.

Russia is taking offense at anyone who refers to the 1864 battle as a Circassian genocide, but that didn't stop Georgia's president Mikheil Saakashvili, who has very little love for Russia or for Russia's president Vladimir Putin, after the latter led a Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008, annexing two of Georgia's provinces. Last month, Saakashvili gave a speech to the United Nations General Assembly. In that speech, he spoke of how Russia was oppressing nations that wanted to join the European Union. He said that "the Georgian nation has suffered an embargo, a war, an invasion, and an occupation – all since 2006." He went through a list of historical outrages, including the following:

"And this is why I have launched several projects during my Presidency reinforcing the people-to-people contacts between North and South Caucasus, projects focusing mostly on education and on University exchanges.

That’s why the Georgian Parliament has recognized [in May, 2011] genocide of Circassian people – one of the most unknown and tragic pages of history of the world, when the whole nation was wiped out because their land was needed by the Russian Empire.

We need to build on those small efforts. We need to prepare for the times when the Empire collapses. So that its legacy of hatred is swiftly overcome."

The "Empire" whose collapse he's predicting is the Russian Empire. But more significant is his statement that Georgia's Parliament recognized the genocide of the Circassian people in 1864. The Russian delegation staged a walkout during Saakashvili's speech.

The Circassian situation is just one of many potential security problems that Russia faces in Sochi, at the edge of the volatile North Caucasus. So if you plan to visit the Sochi Olympics, don't be surprised to find that every possible form of hyper-security is being imposed. CS Monitor and Jamestown and Civil (Georgia)

EU officials jeered and heckled on visit to Lampedusa Island

Divers are still recovering bodies from the horrendous accident last Thursday in a boat carrying 500 migrants from North Africa to Lampedusa Island, as we reported recently. European Commission President José Manuel Barroso visited Lampedusa for a photo op on Wednesday, where he expected to be cheered by the local residents. Instead, dozens of people hurled abuse, with insults like "disgrace" and "killers." It seems that EU politicians have made frequent promises on the subject of illegal immigration to people not only in Italy, but also in Greece and Spain, and have never followed through on any of those promises. Deutsche-Welle

Congressmen forced to reuse gym towels

Congressmen who use the Capitol gym are faced with a major new hardship: Because of the government shutdown, they have to reuse their towels. Of course, other parks and buildings in Washington are shut down (except those needed by President Obama's political friends), but the Capitol gym is being kept open because Congressmen are very special and deserve such a privilege. It's true that having to reuse their towels is a hardship that these public servants should not be forced to bear, but at least they know that they're getting a special Obamacare subsidy, so that they won't have to pay the same astronomical Obamacare health insurance rates that everyone else is going to have to pay. The Hill

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