- By: Jerry Sergei Davydov
- Posted on: 5 FEBRUARY 2014
With the Sochi Olympics less than a week away, there has been growing anxiety about the security of the athletes, Olympic personnel, and spectators attending the Games. Security has been stepped up in recent weeks following the double suicide attacks in Volgograd that killed over 34 people. Reporting in recent weeks has bordered on the frantic, as Russian authorities continue to receive new names and photographs of would-be female suicide bombers, dubbed “black widows.”
Russia’s Olympic Organizing Committee Chief Dmitry Chernyshenko assured journalists that Sochi is the “most secure venue at the moment on the planet.” President Vladimir Putin has promised a 60-mile long and 25-mile deep “ring of steel” around Sochi, with a security cordon guarded by almost 100,000 security personnel— including 40,000 police at the Games, 30,000 military personnel in the Sochi area, 10,000 troops in the surrounding mountainous belt, Russia’s 58th Army guarding the Georgian border, and more than 400 Cossacks in full traditional uniform. (Cossacks are descendants of nomadic settlers in the southern parts of Russia and Ukraine with a long military tradition, best known as an informal horse-borne border guard, dating back to at least the 15thcentury.)
In addition, unmanned drones, bomb sniffing dogs and robots, metal detectors, S-400 and Pantsir-S anti-aircraft missile systems, patrol boats with teams of divers, and Russia’s GLONASS satellites will be deployed at the Olympic Games.
Although much attention has recently been paid to security at the Sochi Olympics, threats are anything but new. As early as February 2007, Jamaat Shariat, a Dagestan-based terrorist group, promised to “attack any of so-called participants of Olympiad who represents the countries at war against Islam and Muslims.”
Doku Umarov, leader of the Caucasus Emirate, the umbrella organization that leads and coordinates attacks across the North Caucasus, followed up on these threats in July 2013, urging his followers to use “any means possible” to ensure that the Games do not take place.
More recently, in January 2014, two would-be suicide bombers promised a “surprise package” for Russia and for Olympic spectators.
The reference to a “surprise package” is particularly troubling, considering the pattern of seizures of radioactive material across the Caucasus over the past two decades. It is possible that one of the groups in the North Caucasus might possess small amounts of radioactive material, and that the surprise is a radiological dispersal device, commonly referred to as a ‘dirty bomb.’
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