Security leading up to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi has been a major concern in Russia, with terrorist bombings and threats hanging over the heads of visitors and competitors. This has led to heightened scrutiny, with Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, staking his reputation on the safety of the games. Of particular concern have been the women suicide bombers known as the “black widows” who made threats against the events held in Sochi.
Now, according to the Economic Times, the Chair of the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee, Michael McCaul, said that Homeland Security has released a bulletin to those airlines that will be going into Russia to alert them to a previously unknown threat — that of possible methods of putting explosives on these flights, either to detonate there or to sneak them into Sochi itself. The U.S. intelligence warns that explosives could be smuggled into toothpaste and cosmetic containers on flights headed into the area.
A U.S. law official stated that there are no specific threats to Americans, but that the information on possible airline bombs is solid. “It’s real. It’s real and we got good information. It’s based on a credible source. We’re taking it seriously. So are other countries,” said the official, according to the Economic Times.
The statement from the Department of Homeland Security noted that “out of an abundance of caution,” the agency sometimes gives information such as this to international allies. “While we are not aware of a specific threat to the homeland at this time, this routine communication is an important part of our commitment to making sure we meet that priority. As always, our security apparatus includes a number of measures, both seen and unseen, and DHS will continue to adjust security measures to fit an ever evolving threat environment,” it said, according to the Economic Times.
This latest is hardly the first concern regarding the Sochi Olympic games, and Russia’s leaders report that all efforts are being made. “We can guarantee the safety of the people as well as any other government hosting a mass event [can],” said Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister, Dmitry Kozak, according to CBC News. “There is no reason to believe Sochi, in Russia, is under more threat than any other city in the world,” said Kozak.
“I want to thank our colleagues from practically all of the countries involved in one way or another with organizing these Games, because they are working together very actively with their Russia partners,” said Vladimir Putin at a press conference Wednesday. “You know that we have set up an operations headquarters here, where our colleagues are present the whole time too, working round the clock: intelligence services representatives and law enforcement officers from many different countries.”
Other issues surrounding the games have included concerns about anti-gay legislation, LGBT rights and privacy, surveillance and data collection from the Russian government, the mass killing of stray dogs in the Sochi area, and corruption from those in charge of organizing the games set up in Russia.