The security at Sochi does not seem concerned by the warning received this Wednesday issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security against a likely terrorist attack on the city through the use of toothpaste bombs. Important Russian officials such as Dmitry Kozak, the Deputy Prime Minister, do not seem to be phased by this new information and continue to assure the media that Sochi is, in fact, secure from any terrorist threats that may be present.
American officials expected to see a tightening of security in Sochi after they released the warning; however, there hasn’t been any change in how the security forces are operating. One explanation for the indifference to the warnings from the Department of Homeland Security may be that just last month, the transportation of all liquids and gels through Russian airports has been completely banned. However, this does not account for threats from within Russian borders.
The Russian government has taken many other quite drastic steps with regards to security to ensure that the Sochi Olympic Games will proceed successfully; however, many are still concerned with the threat of Islamist extremists that have been locked in a conflict with Russia for over a decade now.
In particular, the concern is with one group of Chechen Islamists, the Islamic Emirate of the Caucasus, headed by Doku Umarov, who have been known to use deceptive methods to carry out their attacks. One such method, the use of “black widows,” women whose husbands have been killed in the conflict who will enter a targeted area and set off a suicide bomb, has prompted the use of heavy screening through metal detectors, X-ray scanners, and frisking at nearly every possible major venue of public transportation.
According to reports, though, the security presence in the Sochi area is enormous and is aimed specifically to deter and prevent any attacks by Umarov and his followers or any other terrorist groups that may try to take advantage of the event.
Reports of as many as 40,000 to 75,000 troops present have been made; however, Professor Timothy J. Colton, Professor of Russian Studies and Chair of the Department of Government at Harvard, believes that it is likely that there are even more than that. The security surrounding the Olympic center has been nicknamed the “Ring of Steel,” because of how thorough and impenetrable it is believed to be.
According to the Washington Post, tubes of toothpaste are allowed to pass through security checkpoints without question even at the “Ring of Steel.” It seems that even in the wake of the warning against a toothpaste bomb threat, which was reportedly given with respect to very specific information discovered through research on U.S. soil, security forces are not concerned.
American athletes competing in the Games have been advised against wearing anything in public that flags them as Team USA competitors out of fear for their safety.
Many find it strange that the Russian officials would not be concerned about the threat of bomb ingredients being transported in toothpaste tubes; however, every official who has spoken out with regards to the warning from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security remain adamant that Sochi has no issues with security. The opening ceremonies for the Olympic Games are scheduled for tomorrow night at 8 p.m. in Russia, and will air in North America on NBC in the morning.
by Robin Syrenne