WHITE HOUSE — The White House and U.S. officials say Washington and Moscow are cooperating closely on security for the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. Officials briefed reporters Friday on preparations.
President Barack Obama's spokesman was asked for updates on steps to ensure security for the 230 U.S. athletes, 270 coaches and support staff, and possibly as many as 10,000 Americans, expected in Sochi. Jay Carney said the United States remains in regular contact with the Russian government, adding that State Department diplomatic security and FBI teams are in place in Sochi.
Against the background of concerns that American athletes have voiced about security for family members traveling to Sochi, Carney said Washington knows the Russian government takes seriously the need to make the Games safe.
"We have no doubt that it is in their absolute interest to take all the necessary precautions to ensure the safety and security of the Olympic Games, and we are working with them and other nations in taking the precautions that we can take, mindful of the fact that Russia as the host nation has the lead in security," said Carney.
Carney said the U.S. offer of assistance to Russia stands. Asked if a request has been received, he said he could not detail conversations.
As previously announced, two U.S. Navy ships are being sent to the Black Sea. Sochi is located on its northeast coast.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel was asked Friday about planning for a potential evacuation of Americans should it become necessary in the event of any terrorist attack. "We've had conversations with the Russian government on the protection of our citizens; of course, if we need to extract our citizens, we will have appropriate arrangements with the Russians to do this.”
Senior administration officials briefing reporters said no specific evacuation plan is in place. Officials said Hagel was referring to a "mutual understanding" between U.S. and Russian defense officials about coordination if there was a need to evacuate.
The officials also said there had been no formal request by the Russian government for technology to help counter Improvised Explosive Devices [IEDS], but that the U.S. and Russia have had general discussions on this topic.
They noted that an increase in threat reporting around the Olympics comes from intelligence and media reports, adding that close attention is being paid to all of them.
They said among threats they are watching closely are media accounts of female suicide bombers and a video posted online claiming responsibility for the attacks that killed more than 30 people in Volgograd [700 kilometers from Sochi] earlier this month.
The senior administration officials said American diplomatic security teams will accompany U.S. teams to all venues, acting as a liaison with Russian government security services.
A State Department travel warning issued earlier this month made note of the Volgograd attacks and said large-scale public events - such as the Olympics - present an attractive target.