News / Europe

Can Terrorists Penetrate Ring of Steel Around Sochi Olympics?

Can Terrorists Penetrate Ring of Steel Around Sochi Olympics?i
X
January 31, 2014 2:02 PM
They are touted as the new Russia’s $50 billion coming-out party -- the triumphal moment for Vladimir Putin’s presidency. But could Islamic terrorists spoil the Sochi Winter Olympics? James Brooke reports from Moscow.
James Brooke
A deadly bombing of a train station in southern Russia last month is the kind of nightmare that Russian authorities seek to avoid in Sochi, the southern Russian city where the Winter Olympics open on February 7.

Two weeks ago, two men from a jihadist group in Russia’s Dagestan claimed they carried out the bombing that killed 18.  One warned Russian President Vladimir Putin in a video:

“If you hold these Olympics, we will give you a present for the innocent Muslim blood being spilled all around the world - in Afghanistan, in Somalia, in Syria,”  the man said.  Then he warned Olympic visitors:  “For the tourists who come, there will be a present, too.”

This week, the Olympic torch rally peacefully made its way through Dagestan and across the conflict-torn Caucasus.

In this region, Russian police say that last year they killed 260 Islamic militants and seized 320 homemade bombs.

Protected by isolation

But security experts say that largely Christian Sochi is physically and culturally isolated from Russia’s mostly Muslim Caucasus. Defense expert Pavel Felgenhauer says this isolation protects the Olympics.

“Sochi in the 19th century was totally ethnically cleansed by the Czarist military forces of all indigenous population, and it was re-populated by Russians and other peoples from other parts of the empire: Georgians, Armenians, even Estonians, Greeks,” said Felgenhauer, who writes a defense column for Moscow’s Novaya Gazeta newspaper.

“There is no indigenous support for jihadist terrorism in Sochi. And Sochi can be bottled up," he said.  The mountains that are the background of the city, right now during the winter, are just simply physically impassable. There are no roads there, and there is no way even a well-trained person could get through at this time of the year,” Felgenhauer said.

"Ring of steel"

President Putin said he is using this geography to protect Sochi with a “ring of steel.”

“If we allow ourselves to exhibit weakness, to exhibit fear, to show our fear, this means that we will contribute to terrorists in achieving their goals,” he recently told foreign and Russian reporters.

In what looks like the most heavily protected Olympics in history, Russia is deploying 60,000 police and soldiers - 26 for each athlete.

“Sochi has been more made into a country of its own,” said Mark Galeotti, a professor of global affairs at New York University and a specialist on Russia’s police. “You need to have a special visa, an entry documentation to get in there. Inhabitants of the area have been brought under considerable controls. You can't drive a private car freely,” he said.

Galeotti adds that the Russians will be monitoring all communications by Olympic guests, visitors and journalists. “They've rolled out a brand new series of electronic measures, basically to intercept every single text message, every single e-mail conversation,” he said.

But some terrorists may slip through. Last week, police distributed to hotel receptionists wanted posters for three women in head scarves.

In Russia, they are feared as “black widows” - jihadist women who carry out suicide bombings to avenge the deaths of their husbands.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Video Scientists Say We Need Softer Robots

Today’s robots are mostly hard, rigid machines, with sharp edges and forceful movements, but researchers at Carnegie Mellon University say they should be softer and therefore safer More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs