As Sochi Olympics Draw Closer, Terrorism Does, Too

A recent string of deadly attacks in Russia forebodes more violence ahead of the Winter Games.

A picture taken on September 25, 2013, shows the Iceberg figure-skating and short-track venue arena in the Olympic Park in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi.
National Journal
Add to Briefcase
Marina Koren
Dec. 30, 2013, 6:46 a.m.

A ter­ri­fy­ing pat­tern is slowly form­ing in Rus­sia.

Dur­ing rush hour Monday, a bomb det­on­ated on a trol­ley­bus, killing 14 people in the city of Vol­go­grad. The day be­fore, an ex­plo­sion at the city’s main train sta­tion killed 17 people and wounded dozens. In Oc­to­ber, a bus blast that killed sev­en was caught on a driver’s dash­board cam.

Vol­go­grad, about 400 miles north­east of So­chi, has be­come a tar­get for sui­cide bomb­ings. The city is a ma­jor trans­port­a­tion hub for people trav­el­ing from Mo­scow and cent­ral Rus­sia to So­chi, where the Winter Olympic Games will be held in Feb­ru­ary.

Vol­go­grad also houses the rail sta­tion that leads to and from the North Cau­cas­us, where Chechens and Rus­si­ans — di­vided in re­li­gious, cul­tur­al, and polit­ic­al be­liefs — have been locked in con­flict for years. Chechen sep­ar­at­ist groups from this re­gion are usu­ally the sus­pects in ter­ror­ist at­tacks in Rus­sia, and the re­cent deadly at­tacks sug­gest they could just be get­ting star­ted.

In Ju­ly, the Chechen sep­ar­at­ist group Cau­cas­us Emir­ate, the or­gan­iz­a­tion sus­pec­ted in Monday’s bomb­ing, re­leased a video state­ment prom­ising vi­ol­ence dur­ing the games. The Rus­si­ans, said the group’s lead­er Doku Umarov, “plan to hold the Olympics on the bones of our an­cest­ors, on the bones of many, many dead Muslims bur­ied on the ter­rit­ory of our land on the Black Sea, and we Mu­ja­hedeen are ob­liged not to per­mit that — us­ing any meth­ods al­lowed us by the almighty Al­lah.”

The U.S. State De­part­ment con­siders the Cau­cas­us Emir­ate a for­eign ter­ror­ist group, and of­fers a $5 mil­lion re­ward for in­form­a­tion about Umarov’s loc­a­tion. The White House con­demned the latest at­tacks in a state­ment Monday, an­noun­cing that it has offered its “full sup­port” to the Rus­si­an gov­ern­ment in se­cur­ity pre­par­a­tions for the winter games. “The United States stands in solid­ar­ity with the Rus­si­an people against ter­ror­ism,” said Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Coun­cil spokes­wo­man Caitlin Hay­den.

Thomas Bach, pres­id­ent of the In­ter­na­tion­al Olympic Com­mit­tee, said Monday he is “cer­tain that everything will be done to en­sure the se­cur­ity of the ath­letes and all the par­ti­cipants of the Olympic Games,” ac­cord­ing to the AP.

Still, the threat of more at­tacks, es­pe­cially in Vol­go­grad, has be­come real for cit­izens, spec­tat­ors, and ath­letes. “Is this the be­gin­ning of a lar­ger ter­ror­ist cam­paign lead­ing up to So­chi?” wrote a pair of home­land-se­cur­ity and coun­terter­ror­ism ex­perts for ABC News on Monday. “There should be little doubt it is.”


Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.