US Unsure of Winter Olympics Security, Issues Travel Advisory to Russia
The United States is still concerned about security in Sochi, Russia during the 2014 Winter Olympic games after many terrorist attacks in the country. The games begin on February 7.
President Vladimir Putin claims there will be plenty of security in Sochi, but counter-terrorism experts are concerned about outlying areas. There have been three attacks in Volgograd, which is a major transportation hub between Moscow and southern Russia. In October, a woman detonated a bomb on a busy bus, killing six and injuring over 30. In December, a suicide bomber attacked the train station and less than 24 hours later, another bomb exploded on a bus. The attacks killed 29 people. On January 8, six dead bodies, three rigged with bombs, were found in four cars in Stavropol. One bomb exploded, but no one was hurt.
After the consecutive attacks in December, the United States offered to help with more security through the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Officials said those talks are still happening, but they are concerned.
Top American officials overseeing security preparations for the U.S. Olympic Team -- led in Russia by the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security with support from the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency -- told ABC News that bombings so far outside the Chechen battlespace signals the militants' confidence in striking distant civilian targets for maximum political effect. Their goal: embarrassing Russian President Vladmir Putin.
"They're increasing their area of operations and that's troubling," said a U.S. counter-terrorism official who has directly scrutinized Russian security preparations for the Olympics. "Their goal is to give Putin a black eye."
The State Department released a travel advisory to those who plan to travel to Russia for the Olympics and the Paralympic Games. The advisory ends on March 24.
Travelers to Sochi should expect increased police presence and enhanced security measures in and around the Olympic venues. There is no indication of a specific threat to U.S. institutions or citizens, but U.S. citizens should be aware of their personal surroundings and follow good security practices. U.S. citizens are urged to remain vigilant and exercise good judgment and discretion when using any form of public transportation. When traveling, U.S. citizens may wish to provide a friend, family member, or coworker a copy of their itinerary.
No one took credit for the last two bombings and no motive was offered for the car bombs, but officials believe radical Muslims from Chechnya are responsible for these attacks. Sochi and Stavropol are close to the Caucasus region, which is home to these groups. In July, their leader Doku Umarov released a tape and told his followers to attack Russia and make the Olympics a target.