Monthly Archives: November 2013

Is Putin Planning to Use the Olympics Again as a Cover for Aggression?

Is Putin Planning to Use the Olympics Again as a Cover for Aggression?

November 9, 2013 at 7:45pm

by Paul Goble

Paul Goble (@PaulGouble1) is a longtime specialist on the non-Russian peoples of Eurasia. For the last nine months, he has been preparing a Sochi Countdown each Friday on

Moscow’s moves over the last few months demonstrate that Russian President Vladimir Putin views the Sochi Olympiad as a useful occasion for further repressions against the peoples within the borders of the Russian Federation, but there are increasing indications that he may be planning to use them, just as he did the 2008 Beijing Games, as a cover for aggression against one or more neighboring countries.

Six years ago, Putin launched a war of aggression against Georgia on the same day when many of the world’s leaders were in Beijing to attend that of the opening ceremony of that year’s Summer Olympiad, thus exploiting the difficulties Western governments inevitably faced in terms of diplomatic niceties and government communications and delayed if not in fact limited their ability to respond promptly and forcefully to Putin’s actions. Given that these same governments are now pressuring Georgia to come to terms with what Russia did then, Putin has every reason to think that such a strategy could work again.

Is the Kremlin leader in fact thinking about that now? There are three reasons to think that he may be — even though there is as yet no clear indication that he has made a final decision. First, over the last several months, Putin has imposed economic sanctions against Ukraine, Moldova, and Lithuania and sponsored media campaigns against the efforts of these and other countries in the former Soviet orbit to integrate themselves with Europe rather than remain subordinate to Moscow. Some of this rhetoric is extreme and resembles the content and tone of Russian commentaries about Georgia in the summer of 2008.

Second, Russian defense officials, including the incumbent defense minister, have identified NATO’s expansion to the east as a threat to Russia exceeded only by the one that terrorism poses. They have expressed outrage about normal NATO exercises in the Baltic region even as Russia and its partners have conducted larger and more aggressive ones in the same place. And they have complained about calls from some Ukrainian officials that the Russian base in Sebastopol be closed.

One can easily imagine a scenario in which Moscow could suggest links between a terrorist act in the Caucasus or in Crimea with the need for the Russian Federation to take military action in the region or the peninsula, something that at least a few of the ethnic Russians in both places could be counted on to support or, even worse, engage in provocations designed to “force” Moscow to act.

And third, with such an act of aggression and by linking it to terrorism, Putin could distract attention from the corruption and incompetence on display in the run-up to the Olympiad and to the likelihood that the games themselves will be anything but well run. The Russian president could thus portray any criticism of him or the Games as criticism of Russia itself, something he has done before because it has worked so well both at home and abroad.

There are just two things that may constrain the Kremlin leader from taking this step. On the one hand, the West, having seen the use of this strategy before, may be more prepared to react. Indeed, if efforts to keep senior officials from European countries and the United States from attending the Sochi Games work, Putin will not be able to count on the disorder that their visits to Beijing entailed.

On the other, such a use of force given the current situation Russia finds itself at home and abroad could prove far more self-destructive. Such aggression would isolate Russia for far longer than it moves against Georgia did and at a time when its economy is in far more serious trouble. And it could even trigger movements among politicians in Moscow to replace the current regime and among ethnic and regional groups in the Russian Federation to achieve independence.

Putin knows all this. The best defense against the risk that he will nonetheless follow his worst nature is for those in the region and those in the West to be aware of the dangers – and to be prepared to respond.

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Window on Eurasia: Sochi Countdown – 13 Weeks to the Olympiad in the North Caucasus


Note:  This is my 37th special Window on Eurasia about the meaning and impact of the planned Olympiad on the nations in the surrounding region.  These WOEs, which will appear each Friday over the coming year, will not aim at being comprehensive but rather will consist of a series bullet points about such developments.  I would like to invite anyone with special knowledge or information about this subject to send me references to the materials involved. My email address is  Allow me to express my thanks to all those who already have. Paul Goble
Sochi Olympic Park ‘Still Under Construction,’ Visitors Say.  Although Russian officials insist that everything is almost ready for the games, Western journlists who have visited Sochi says that the Olympic park is “still under construction” and that “workers are scrambling to finish the athletes’ housing facilities.”  They also say that “the 40,000-seat stadium designed for the opening and closing ceremonies isn’t finished either” and that organizers are practicing at an alternative venue, an indication that they have fears about whethere the original site will be finished in time (
Construction Materials Now Being Delivered to Sochi by Air.  In yet another indication of Moscow’s push to finish Olympic construction on time, the Russian authorities are now using specially outfitted Boeing 747-8F cargo planes to deliver 30 tons of construction materials on each flight.  The costs of air delivery of such materials, of course, are enormous and suggest that construction in Sochi is not quite as far along as Russian officials routinely claim ( and
Kozak Warns Olympic Builders to Finish on Time or Face Criminal Charges.  Vice Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak, who is overseeing the Sochi Games for the Kremlin, says that contractors must live up to their promises and deliver finished buildings on time or they will face criminal sanctions (
Olympic Contractors Break a Sochi Water Main on Average Every Three Days. During the first ten months of 2013, Olympic facility contractors have managed to break water mains in Sochi 115 times, or once every three days.  Often that leads to water cutoffs to businesses and residences for days or in some cases weeks.  In many cases, it appears that the breakage has happened because contractors either do not know where existing pipes are or are working too fast to be bothered to check (
Olympic Torch has Gone Out 44 Times So Far.  Russian organizers have had little luck with their much ballyhooed Olympic torch. It has gone out 44 times so far, prompting investigations into the manufacturer, suggestions that the whole thing is a flop or the result of “dark forces,” and the decision by some along its track to meet the torch not with celebration but by clicking cigarette lighters as the runner passes (,  and
Another Storm Warning Issued in Sochi.  The Sochi area faces its third major storm in the last several months, and officials are asking residents to be “vigilant and to take all necessary security measures.”  The two earlier storms did significant damage to coastal construction and flooded portions of the Olympic facilities.  The clean up from those storms is still going on (
IOC Head Doesn’t Want Any Kind of Boycott of Sochi.  Saying that sports should unite rather than divide, IOC head Thomas Bach said that he very much hoped that there would not be any kind of boycott – by athletes, countries or officias — directed against the Sochi Games (
European Parliamentarians Said Ready to Call on National Officials to Boycott Games.  European parliamentarians are ready to call on the leadership of the European Union and its constituent countries not to attend the Sochi Olympics, a stance many Russian opposition figures support (
European Olympic Head Calls on Georgia Not to Boycott Sochi.  Patrick Hickey, president of the European Olympic Committee, urged Georgia to refrain from boycotting the games, despite the fact that 30,000 Georgians have petitioned Tbilisi to do so because of what they suggest is the continuing Russian occupation of Georgian territory (
Russian Diplomat Says Sochi Will Welcome Georgian Athletes and Fans.  Vitaly Churkin, the Russian Federation’s permanent representative to the United Nations, says that Russia will welcome Georgian athletes and fans to Sochi “despite the attempts of Georgia” to stir up opposition to Moscow over the Olympiad (
Brezhnev Briefly Considered Cancelling 1980 Moscow Games.  In1975, Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev sent a message to the CPSU Central Committee suggesting that it might be a good idea for the USSR to cancel the games, a message he compossed five years before anyone began talking about a boycott.  Brezhnev said that “besides the enormous cost, there may be all sorts of scandals that could tarnish the Soviet Union.” Russian President Vladimir Putin does not seem worried about either the cost or the scandals this time around, apparently certain that Western countries will not object and may even help him celebrate the Games (
Sochi Police Harass Two Norwegian Journalists … Two Norwegian journalists, Reporter Øystein Bogen and cameraman Aage Aunes, who work for Norway’s TV2 television station,the country’s official broadcaster of this year’s Olympics, were harassed by police near Sochi, told they were on a “blacklist” issued by the KGB, and asked during their brief detention “Are you going to say anything negative about the Olympics?” ( and
… Russian Foreign Ministry Apologizes … Following official complaints by the Norwegian government and a media firestorm about this in Moscow and Europe, the Russian foreign ministry officially apologized to the two journalists and said that local law enforcement personnel had “exceeded their authority” (
… But Rights Groups Say More Needs to Be Done to Ensure Media Freedom. But Memorial and Human Rights Watch said that Moscow needed to do more to ensure that journalists would be able to do their jobs free of official pressure. An official of Memorial said that “of course, censorship exists” whatever it is called but that unfortunately, the Russian government is “unconcerned about being condemned for this by the international community. Jane Buchanan of Human Rights Watch said that the IOC should investigate and that Moscow officials should stop all harassment of journalists (,,  and
Chernyshenko Says Russian Olympic Uniforms Rainbow-Colored But Warns Against Demonstrations at Sochi.  Dmitry Chernyshenko, head of Russia’s organizing committee, says that “our official uniforms for Games organizer is full of rainbow color” and that his group “keeps social inclusivity a key for our Games.  At the same time, however, he warned against “any propaganda or any demonstrations” during the Games “in accordance with the Olympic Charter’s Rule No. 50” (
Sochi Gays Say City is ‘Dangerous’ for LGBTs. Vladislav Slavsky, a gay resident of Sochi, says “It is dangerous here. I’m not living my life now, I’m surviving. I always have pepper spray on me when I’m walking. I get attacked from the bushes. It’s stopped somewhat recently, but I have been attacked many times from people hiding in the bushes near my house. In the evening when it gets dark they jump out of the bushes, insult me, throw stones and glass bottles at me.” Andrey Tanichev, who owns a gay club there, adds that “Before this law was passed, gay people didn’t have any rights anyway. Gay prides or even talking about them was unthinkable. Even more so, talking about gays in general was unthinkable. Unthinkable – they simply didn’t exist. Like there was no sex in the Soviet Union, there were no gays either. And this law at least raised certain questions among the public. I think that this will not change anything until the regime changes. And I think the regime’s attitude towards minorities will not change in any case” (
UN Calls for Social Inclusion at Sochi.  In its resolution calling for an Olympic truce, the UN General Assembly urged Moscow and future host governments to “promote social inclusion without discrimination of any kind,” Andre Banks, executive director of the gay rights group All Out, used the occasion to call for the repeal of Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law. ‘If the IOC and Russian officials were serious about making the Games open to all, they would take action before Sochi to reject laws that are leading to a dramatic spiral of brutal violence against gays and lesbians,’ he said (
Moscow Blocks Tribute to Gay Victims of Nazi Germany.  The Russian government refused to allow a Russian gay rights group to hold an event in Moscow to remember gays who were killed by the Nazis. Nikolai Alekseev, founder of Moscow Pride, said that ‘the Moscow authorities are becoming increasingly absurd, and the ban of the rally to denounce the crimes of Hitler and Nazism is more proof of this. [Indeed,] The government is approving of Nazi Germany’s genocidal policies.” Moreover, he said, “the Moscow authorities have actually formalized a total ban on all public gatherings of the LGBT community. They are actively using the federal law banning so-called gay propaganda to justify their homophobic actions” (
Russian Gays Seek Data on Repression Against Them.  The Russian LGBT network is circulating a questionnaire to find out what kinds of repressions Russian gays now face. Meanwhile, “Otechesvennyye zapiski” has published a large article on the history and current state of Russian homophobia ( and
If Moscow Discriminated against Blacks Rather than Gays, No One Would Go to Sochi, Canadian Commentator Says. Jennifer Good says that if the Russian government had announced the same policies about blacks that it has for LGBTs, no government in the world would consider sending its athletes to Sochi. Racism is fortunately unacceptable, but “sexuality is easier to hide and homophobia continues to make it acceptable to ask people to do so”(
Medvedev Promises ‘Absolutely Safe’ Games.  Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev says that “a number of threats exist in our country, so everyone is working as hard as possible – the special forces are working, and the government as a whole is trying to guarantee the absolute safety of the Olympic Games …I believe that’s what will happen. But it’s clear that we should take a number of other decisions to make sure that these Games are held without a hitch, so that they will be remembered as a spectacular sporting event” (
Chernyshenko Promises ‘Safest Games Ever’ in ‘Friendly Atmosphere.’  Saying that Russian officials will not spy on fans or athletes or embed tracking devices in credentials, Dmitry Chernyshenko, head of the Sochi organizing committee, says that “rumors that Big Brother will be watching you are fiction not reality.”  He said that people will be secure and in “a friendly atmosphere.”  Unfortunately, he continued, “double standards exist” and “what is forgiven in one country will be criticized in our case” (
To Attend Sochi Olympic Events, Fans Will Need Special ‘Tickets Bearing Their Names.’  In order to enhance security, Aleksandr Zhukov, the vice speaker of the Russian State Duma, says that fans will need tickets bearing their names that guards will be able to check against their documents. “Each viewer must register in advance,” he said, “and after this will receive a special card.” It is unclear from Zhukov’s comments whether this is simply the fan passport that officials have talked about in the past or a new system in which the individual tickets themselves will have the name of the fan on them (
Sochi Security Arrangements Draconian, Independent Experts Say.  Andrey Soldatov and Irina Borogan, two of Russia’s most distinguished independent experts on that country’s security services, say that security in Sochi will be unprecedentedly tight, with 5500 cameras, more than 40,000 security personnel, and various electronic monitoring devices. Moreover, the security services appear committed to further expanding their reach and testing methods that may be used elsewhere (
Moscow to Allow Citizens of 20 Countries Visa-Free Three-Day Visits to Sochi. Citizens of 20 countries, including the United States and China will be able to visit Sochi and several other Russian cities for three days without securing a Russian visa, a rare example of a loosening of control and one that could be exploited against the Games (
Russian Experts Counter Moscow’s Anti-Circassian Claims.  As Circassians in the North Caucasus have stepped up their demands that Moscow allow Circassians living in wartorn Syria to return to their ancestral homelands, Russian officials have suggested that there are many reasons that they shouldn’t be. Now, a group of Russian experts has provided arguments as to why the five “myths” the Russian government has offered are without foundation and reflect only Moscow’s unwillingness to allow more Circassians into the region in advance of the Sochi Games (
Sochi Investors Demand More Money from the Government.  Apparently using a strategy they have employed before, investors and businesses involved in Sochi construction have told the Russian government that it must provide them with more loans and other assistance if the work is to be completed in a timely fashion.  Some commentators have suggested this “ultimatum” could be rejected and the work would be finished anyway, but others say that the businesses have the government in a tight squeeze and consequently are likely to be bailed out again especially since many politicians and bureaucrats are profiting as well ( and
Krasnodar Airport to Serve as Backup to Sochi.  According to a document obtained by journalists that officials said was restricted to official use, the Russian authorities plan to restrict air traffic into and out of Krasnodar airport as the Olympics approach in order to have a backup for the Sochi field.  At present, Krasnodar field is working normally (
Environmentalist Arrested, Then Released with Warning.  Andrey Rudomakha, coordinator of the Ecological Watch on the North Caucasus, was arrested and then released with a warning. He and his organization have angered officials because of their reports about discrepancies between official claims and reality and about special arrangements that have been made for Vladimir Putin’s dacha (
Local Ecologists Dispute Moscow’s Claim that Sochi Will Be Carbon Neutral.  Local environmentalists say that the trash dumps that contractors are leaving behind strongly suggest that Sochi will not be carbon neutral as Russian officials continue to claim (  and
German Petition Seeks to Protect Sochi’s Homeless Animals from Euthanization. More than 34,000 people have signed an online petition in Germany calling on Russian officials not to go forward with their plans to euthanize homeless animals in Sochi in advance of the Olympiad (
Russian Commentators Say Sochi Games are for Export.  Vladimir Putin may not get the bounce at home that he is hoping for, Moscow commentators say, because Russians have concluded that the Olympiad is being run not for them but for a foreign audience. Indeed, Oleg Kozyrev writes, the authorities have transformed life in Sochi into “a hell” for residents and have generally ignored the interests and needs of ordinary Russians as opposed to those of the oligarchs. Moreover, he says, “the authorities have no plan to make the Olympiad a holiday for the entire country.” Few Russians can afford the ticket and htel prices. And officials are interested only in enriching themselves and promoting their image of Russia to foreigners who may not appreciate what is actually taking place in the country. Meanwhile, Olympic officials have announced a new 1.5 million US dollar program to promote the Games ( and,
Moscow’s Use of Force in North Caucasus Won’t End Islamic Threat There. Corneliues Graubner, a New York specialist on the Caucasus, says that “the aggressive security sweeps targeting Islamists” across the North Caucasus “may well disrupt possible plans” by militant groups to disrupt the Sochi Games, but these acitons will do little to end the Islamist challenge. “Putin and his pawns in Dagestan will not be able to shoot themselves out of the Islamist threat. As long as autocratic tendencies and corruption shape the Kremlin’s policies in the North Caucasus, money and time will be wasted, and lives will continue to be lost” (
Victims of Russia’s Anti-Gay Propaganda Law Can Apply for Asylum, Dutch Say. Fans Timmermans, the foreign minister of the Netherlands, said that Russia’s anti-gay law “has a stigmatizing and discriminatory effect and contributes to a climate of homophobia” in the Russian Federation and thus could become grounds for asylum in his country (
Duma Deputy Wants to Ban Football Matches in North Caucasus Lest They Spark Ethnic Violence. Oleg Nilov, the deputy head of the Just Russia fraction in the Russian State Duma, has called for the introduction of a ban on football matches in the North Caucasus because such competitions often feature nationalist signs and slogans and end in violence, including the burning of national flags.  He suggestd that the authorities might introduce rugby as an alternative competition. LDPR head Vladimir Zhirinovsky archly suggested that having curling competitions might be even more effective (
Russian Officials Say Sochi Identity Emerged Only After 1864.  An article by a Russian specialist on the Caucasus ignores the fact that Sochi was a Circassian city before the 1864 genocide tsarist officials conducted against that nation, thereby whiting out most of the history fo the city, and suggests that the Sochi local identity now so much in evidence is the product of the influx of ethnic Russians, Cossacks and other nationalities (
Russians Still Upset about Sochi and Summer Time.  Ordinary Russians and many Duma members remain upset that Moscow signed contracts with foreign firms to cover the Sochi Olympiad that in effect require the entire Russian Federation to remain on summer time until the games conclude. Various commentators and deputies are considering proposals that would allow at least part of the country to change sooner, although government opposition makes it unlikely any of these ideas will be realized (
US Human Rights Campagn Launches ‘Love Conquers Hate’ Effort Against Russian Anti-Gay Law.  The Human Rights Campaign, the largest US gay right group has launched a campaign featuring actors, actresses, past Olympians and other sports stars wearing Russian-language “Love Conquers Hate” T-shirts. Among those taking part are Jonah Hill, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kristen BellmFergie, Kelly Osbourne, Ricky Martin, Kevin Bacon, Doutzen Kroes, Anthony Bourdain, Tim Gunn, Perez Hilton, Todd Glass, Jonathan Del Arco, Amanda Leigh Dunn, Ana Matronic, Olympic swimmer Craig Gibbons, NBA basketball player Jason Collins, country singer Maggie Rose and soccer players Jozy Altidore, Lori Lindsey and Megan Rapinoe. The group is calling for the repeal of Russia’s anti-LGBT propaganda before the Sochi Games begin (
Amnesty Says Olympic Torch Throws ‘Light on Human Rights Violations in Russia.’Amnesty International says that Moscow’s decision to have the Olympic torch pass through all the federal subjects of the Russian Federation has had the effect of highlighting human rights violations of all kinds in that country.  Had there been no torch parade, many aspects of this dark side of Russian life today would have remained hidden at least to the international community. Sergey Nikitin, the Russian Federation representative at Amnesty, says that “the Russian authorities must not use the Olympics” as a screen to hide such abuses and that any efforts by them to do so are totally unacceptable and a violation of the Olympic Charter (
Putin Spends Billions on Sochi But has No Money for Children With Cancer, Shenderovich Says.  Viktor Shenderovich, a Russian writer and commentator, says that it is totally unacceptable that President Vladimir Putin is prepared to spend “billions” for the Olympiad but can’t come up with government funds to help children with cancer.  As a result, he said, he probably won’t watch these games(
10,000 Copies of ‘Misha and His Moms Go to the Olympics’ to Be Sent to Russia.  A US firm based in Michigan plans to mail copies to children in Moscow and Sochi of a coloring book about the adventures of a Muscovite boy named Misha and his two lesbian mothers at the Olympics. In the book, Misha makes friends from around the world,,, even as Russian police beat a gay couple for holding hands and two straight female medal winners kissing on the awards platform. It also shows a terrified Misha being dragged out of hs home by police, a dramatic illustration of efforts by Duma deputies to legalize the seizure of children from gay parents (
Moscow’s Claims to the Contrary, Sochi is Anything But Invalid Friendly.  The Russian government has not lived up to its promises to ensure that people with physical disabilities will be able to move about the site of the Olympics and Paralympics, local residents say.  There are many places which still require going up and down long flights of stairs, a clear violation of Moscow’s commitments to the IOC but not something the IOC has complained about (
FIFA to Take Steps Against Discrimination in Russia before 2018 Competition. While this move will do little to help improve the situation at Sochi next February, the International Football Federation has announced that it is planning to take steps to ensure that competitors at the 2018 cup championships in Russia do not suffer from racism or discrimination of any kind (
Cossacks to Replace Police in Stavropol During Sochi Games.  The authorities in Stavropol kray, an increasingly restive region in southern Russia, have announced that they are hiring Cossacks to take the place of regular police there during the Sochi Games.  Apparently, the Stavropol police force will be sent to Sochi.  This is the clearest indication yet that Moscow is having to scramble to backfill the places of those it is dispatching for security in Sochi (
Moscow Sets Fines for Motorists in Sochi During Games.  The Russian government has set special fines for motorists driving in Sochi during the Olympics, fines whose size has already drawn fire from local residents who fear they will be victimized as a result (
Sochi Residents Say Moscow has Entered Them in New Olympic Event – Survival. Faced with continuing and in some cases worsening water, sewage, power and heating shutoffs, torn up streets, cracked sidewalks, official malfeasance and other overbearing actions, rising prices, increasing restrictions on their movements, residents of Sochi say that they have been entered against their will in a new Olympic sport – survival.  Many add that the only benefit they have from the games is that they don’t have to pay the sky-high hotel prices, but some of them are losing their homes and many are outraged by the way in which construction has transformed and not in a good way their home town (,,,
Circassians to Have Only Marginal Place at Sochi Games. Ruslan Gvashev, chairman of the Shapsug elders organization, says that Moscow’s promises notwithstanding, the Circassian nation of which his Shapsugs are a subgroup will have only a marginal place in the celebration of the Olympiad.  He adds that Moscow has mislead the International Olympic Committee, the international community, and many Circassians about this and points to the unwillingness of officials in Sochi and nearby regions to register Circassians as an indigenous people or otherwise include them in public discussions.  Gvashev says that he is especially outraged that the Sochi administration has not been willing to talk about the preservation of a Circassian cemetery there or take steps to counter the rising tide of xenophobia among ethnic Russians in the North Caucasus (
Russia Lacks Historical Data on Sochi Weather.  All of Moscow’s predictions about the weather in Sochi next February suffer not only from the difficulties of making longterm forecasts but also because Russia has had a weather station in Sochi  for only the last ten years and thus lacks longterm data and because the station itself is some 1600 feet below where the competitions will take place (
Blogger Transforms Sochi Countdown Clock into Barometer of Spending on Olympiad.  By replacing days with billions, hours with millions, minutes with thousands, and second with dollars, a Russian blogger has posted online a picture of the Sochi countdown block that transforms it into a clear display of just how much money Moscow has spent on what is far and away the most expensive Olympiad in history (
IOC Calls on Russia to Investigate Trash Dumps in Sochi.  Given Russia’s zero waste pledge to the international community, members of the International Olympic Committee are expressing deep concern about reports that Olympic contractors continue to dump waste in various parts of Sochi and that this waste represents a threat to public health.  ”If this is true, I am astonished,” Gerhard Heiberg, a senior Norwegian IOC member and marketing commission chairman, told the AP on Thursday. ”This would be a breach of confidence between the Russian authorities and the IOC.”  Canadian IOC member Dick Pound called for urgent action to determine the safety of the water supply. ”If you’re the IOC, you say, `Look, we’ve got this report. We’re not in a position to assess it, but if it’s true, this really does compromise your own citizenry and it compromises the games. Could you please give us a quick and reliable report on what the hell is going on?” (
Putin May Use Sochi to Dump Medvedev, KPRF Says. Sochi members of the KPRF in the Olympic city say that Russian President Vladimir Putin may use problems with the Olympiad as an occasion to fire Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and his government. They offer no specific evidence for their prediction (
Sochi Contractors Still Not Paying Many Gastarbeiters.  Despite promises and government intervention, a number of Olympic contractors still have not paid back wages to many immigrant workers (
Illegal Migrants Still in Sochi. Despite government pledges to round up and expel all illegal immigrants in Sochi by November 12, officials concede that they have not been able to do so, in part because despite the huge dragnet they have not found all of them and in part because businesses need their labor to this day (
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By: Valery Dzutsev


Istanbul demonstration in support of assisting Syrian Circassians (Source: Caucasian Knot)

On October 31, the parliament of Kabardino-Balkaria approved an appeal to Russian Federation Council chairwoman Valentina Matvienko and State Duma Speaker Sergei Naryshkin to assist in the repatriation of Syrian Circassians to the North Caucasus. “Over 150,000 Circassians live on the Syrian territory,” the appeal read. “They have experienced hardships, such as fleeing their homes. Their natural aspiration to return to their historical homeland is inextricably linked to their concerns for their personal safety and well-being, for maintaining their cultural identity [in Syria].” Thus far, an estimated 1,000 Syrian Circassians have left Syria for the North Caucasus (

The Kabardino-Balkarian parliament’s appeal to the Russian parliament is not a trivial step, and required significant nerve on the part of the republican government given Moscow’s annoyance with the Circassian question. Even though Moscow preferred to keep quiet about the Circassian issue or make occasional neutral statements in the run-up to the Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014, Russian analysts, many of them close to the government, repeatedly attacked the Circassians in a variety of ways. The Russian government is certainly not going to be happy about the Kabardino-Balkarian legislature’s attempt to ask the central government to respond to the plight of the Syrian Circassians. Despite serious pressure from Moscow, republican governments in the Circassian republics are seeking ways to support their ethnic kin. For example, the government in Adygea has set up a special website that helps to establish links between the Syrian Circassian refugees in the republic and their local clan members. An estimated 130 families of Syrian Circassians fled to Adygea after the unraveling of the Syrian crisis (

Moscow has signaled that it does not approve of Circassians’ return to the North Caucasus. Apart from stopping the flow of Circassian refugees from Syria, the Russian government also took a more hostile stance toward those refugees that made it into the country. For example, the Circassian civil organization Peryt was fined for helping a group of 19 Syrian Circassians obtain Russian business visas. These people arrived in Russia and then turned to the Russian government for protection as refugees from Syria. The authorities hit Peryt with a whopping $250,000 fine, which would virtually result in its closure. The refugees themselves were fined about $70 each for “lying” on their visa applications. A court in Nalchik decided the case in favor of Peryt, but it is still unclear how the government will respond (

The Sochi Olympics, which will be held on the historical lands of the Circassians, are a landmark event that provides a rallying point for Circassian activists to use to advance their interests. Ruslan Gvashev, the Circassian elder in Krasnodar region, said in an interview with a human rights organization based in Nalchik that Circassians should have the status of people indigenous to the region and be properly represented in the Sochi Olympics program. “They tell us, ‘you will also be represented at the Olympics, dance there, etc.,’ but we are not ‘also’—we are the only people native to this land,” Gvashev said. The activist stated that Circassians expected the Russian government to pay as much attention to the native people of the region as governments paid to the representation of indigenous people in previous Olympics games, such as Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada (

In October, an association of the foreign alumni of the Kabardino-Balkaria State University was established in Nalchik. Last month also saw the launch of an Internet website that tells the story of the Circassians’ deportation to the Ottoman Empire by the Russian government in the 19th century, using historical documents. “The transnational Circassian movement is on the rise” because the democratization of Turkey has allowed that country’s Circassian 5 million-strong diaspora to organize and become an important voice for the Circassians, Circassian activist Andzor Kabard told the Kavkazsky Uzel (Caucasian Knot) website. According to Kabard, Georgia’s recognition of the Circassian “genocide” allowed the Circassian issue to be raised in the international arena, such as United Nations General Assembly, while the war in Syria has made the issue of the Circassians’ repatriation to the North Caucasus ever more pressing and the Sochi Olympics galvanized Circassians worldwide and helped them make their problems known globally. Kabard listed the main problems of the Circassians in the North Caucasus as the lack of the right to unify Circassians in their historical homeland, the degradation of the Circassian language, the de-secularization of Kabardino-Balkaria, the quasi-feudal system of governance in the North Caucasus imposed by Moscow, offensive interpretations of history by Russian historians, and the incitement of inter-ethnic and inter-religious conflicts by state propaganda (

Circassian activists appear to have found an ally—albeit a cautious one—among the republican governments of the Circassian republics in the North Caucasus. At a time when Russian nationalism is so prolific in Russia, other nationalisms are bound to follow the lead, inspired by events in Moscow with the harassment of Central Asian and Caucasian Muslims. Even the ostensibly pro-Moscow elites in the North Caucasian republics are showing support for their ethnic kin, implicitly clashing with Moscow’s interests.

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Note:  This is my 36th special Window on Eurasia about the meaning and impact of the planned Olympiad on the nations in the surrounding region.  These WOEs, which will appear each Friday over the coming year, will not aim at being comprehensive but rather will consist of a series bullet points about such developments.  I would like to invite anyone with special knowledge or information about this subject to send me references to the materials involved. My email address is  Allow me to express my thanks to all those who already have. Paul Goble

Putin Says All Will Be Welcome at Sochi Despite Russia’s Anti-LGBT Law.  President Vladimir Putin told visiting IOC head Thomas Bach that “we will do everything …so that both the participants andguestsfeel comfortable in Sochi, regardless of ethnicity, racial heritage or sexual orientation.” He did not say that he would seek the repeal of Russia’s anti-LGBT law or that he would take new measures to stop the anti-gay and anti-minority actions that have been sweeping through the Russian Federation in recent weeks. In effect, he promised to suspect the application of Russian laws in Sochi during the Games just as the leaders of some other countries have done in the case of past Olympiads, most notoriously Adolf Hitler in 1936 ( and
Anti-Gay Law Gives ‘Green Light’ to Skinheads and Fascists, LGBT Activist Says. Andrey Tanichev, owner of one openly gay club in Sochi, says that Moscow’s “idiotic law” banning gay “propaganda” to children has given “a green light to skinheads, nationalists and facists” who want to attack homosexuals. Given that homosexuality was a crime in Russia until 1993 and classified as a mental illness until 1999, the legislation is being read by many as a declaration of open season on gays, whatever the authorities say (
Sochi Gays Say ‘Closet Life is Safer.’  A Sochi lesbian says that “the closet life is safer” and that “we are safe as long as we do not express our feelings in the streets. But if we kiss outside of a school or kindergarten, we get arrested.” Another gay man there sas that “the less we protest on the streets, the les we blow up the scandal, the safer our lives will be” (
IOC Head Refuses to Meet with Russian LGBT Groups.  Saying everything in Sochi is “in great shape” and that he has “no issues of concern,” IOC President Thomas Bach refused to meet with representatives of Russian LGBT organizations.  Anastasia Smirnova of the Russian LGBT Sport Federation says that she sees this decision as “yet another indicator that the Sochi Olympics are far from being a plagorm to uphold and promote Olympic values,” adding that “it is now impossible to imagine an inclusive event where rights and human dignity of all are respected. The law on ‘propaganda’ is degrading in its nature, suggesting that LGBT people are dangerous to children, families, and society, and that it is the responsibility of the authorities to protect other citizens from us. It is crucial to discuss and define concretely how implementation of the non-discrimination principles will be ensured in such climate. The refusal by Thomas Bach to meet with LGBT organizations in Sochi is disappointing, but we are glad that this discussion with the IOC will still take place” (
Russian Officials Taking DNA Samples from Muslim Women in North Caucasus.  In advance of the Sochi Games, Russian officials are taking DNA samples from Muslim women across the North Caucasus ostensibly so that the authorities can identify body parts if any of the latter become suicide bombers. This action, a clear violation of the Russian constitution and Russian law, will do little to increase security in the region but a great deal to further divide the Russian and non-Russian communities there and alienate the latter ( and ).
Putin May Extend Sochi’s Orwellian Security Measures After Them, Expert Says.The most frightening aspect of the intensive and invasive security arrangements at Sochi may not what they will mean to competitors and visitors but that they may be only a testing  of these measures before they are extende to the Russian Federation as a whole, according to Mark Galeotti . Indeed, he suggests, such future applications may be the largest “legacy” of the Games themselves (
Blogger Expects Sweeping Crackdown Across Russia After Sochi Games.  Oleg Makarenko, a businessman who blogs for Moscow’s “Vzglyad” newspaper, says that he expects Vladimir Putin to launch a sweeping crackdown across Russia immediately after the Sochi Games and set entirely new rules of the game for Russian politics and Russian life in the process (
Terrorist Actions, Which Had Been Falling in Russia, Seen Increasing in Coming Months.  A blogger who tracks ethnic issues says that after a 50 percent decline in the number of terrorist acts over the last year, a decline Moscow has celebrated, the number of such attacks is likely to grow in the coming months not only in the Sochi  region but across the country (
Olympic Sponsors Worried about LGBT Boycott of Their Products, Olbermann Says. ESPN host Keith Olbermann says that some Sochi sponsors are getting worried that gay activists will not watch the games or buy the products produced by those firms that sponsor them. That could hurt the firm’s bottom line.  “There might be an American boycott of the Olympics, but much more likely — at least reading the tea leaves of the remarks of that terrified IOC marketing chairman — much more likely is a boycott by advertisers or the American broadcasts of the Sochi Olympics,” he said. “And if the advertisers bail — and they could bail out over the Russian anti-gay laws or the Russian stance on Syria or the quality of NBC’s announcing team, it doesn’t matter which — the Russians are screwed, and the American telecasts are screwed and, in the only thing that matters to the International Olympic Committee, the International Olympic Committee is screwed.” Moreover, he added “just comparing the 2014 Sochi ‘MasterCard’ Olympics to Hitler’s master race Olympics, this has terrified the money,” the ESPN host added. “And the money terrified is money that will do what you want”(
Olympic Torch Continue to Spark Problems.  The Olympic flame being carried through Russia continues  to spark problems. Sometimes it goes out unexpectedly, and at others it explodes in the faces of thos e carrying it. This has made it the object of political cartoons, jokes and suggestions that if Moscow can’t organize the handling of the torch relay, it certainly won’t be able to handle  the Olympic Games (,,,
Torch Manufacturer Comes Under Fire.  Krasmash, the Krasnoyarsk company that produces many of Russia’s missiles and submarine parts, is now better known for producing Olympic torches that don’t work.  Media and government investigators are swarming over its plant trying to discover why the very expensive and guaranteed Olympic torches are not working as advertised.  Company officials say they conducted an extensive testing program, but observers note that they were paid an extraordinary amount in a non-competitive process and that corruption may have trumped safety ( Investment).
Circassians Around the World Denounce Moscow-Organized Circassian Statements. In response to what they believe was a Moscow-orchestrated declaration of support for the Sochi Games, Circassian groups and their supporters around the world have issued stinging denunciations of that group’s widely reported comments and reaffirmed their opposition to the holding of the games on the site where in 1864 Russian forces conducted genocide against their ancestors.  Many of these groups said the only good thing about the Sochi Games was that this Moscow festival had had the unintended consequence of calling international attention to the Circassians and their plight not only in the North Caucasus but also in Syria (,, ,, and
Gastarbeiters Expelled from Sochi Say Russian Firms Bringing in Yugoslavs to Replace Them.  Immigrant workers from Central Asia and the Caucasus many of whom have not been faced, forced to live in inhuman conditions, and now been expelled say Russian Olympic contracts have “just laid us off and brought in new workers. Yugoslaves, I saw the buses coming in,” an indication that the authorities want to appear to be traking a stand against illegal immigration but do no want to give up this source of cheap and often defenseless labor (
Russian Actions ‘Openly Violate’ Olympic Principles, Human Rights Watch Says. Jane Buchanan, HRW’s deputy director for Europe and Central Asia, said that the IOC has only 100 days to get Russia to stop its violations of laws and principles and urged new IOC chief Thomas Bach to take immediate steps given the illegal exploitation of migrant laborers, pressure on journalists and civic activists, and violations of ecological and historical preservation laws.  She said her organization was going ahead with its plans for an Alternative Map of the Olympic Torch to call attention to human rights problems in Russian cities and regions (
Moscow Says Olympics Have Improved Sochi Environment … Vice Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak says Olympic construction has actually improved the environment of Sochi and its region, a view echoed by Prime Minister  Dmitry Medvedev and Thomas Bach, the new head of the International Olympic Committee (, and
… But Pictures, Evidence and Experts Say Otherwise. But pictures taken by residents, an investigation by the Associated Press, and statements by independent and lower-ranking Russian government experts say that it will take years for the region to recover and that some of the environmental losses may be irreplaceable (,
Russian Fans’ Racism and Violence Stirs More Anger in International Sports Groups.  International sports organizations continue to react to reports about racist chants and violent acts by Russian fans, with some of these groups demanding the imposition of serious punishments on the Russians and some now talking about boycotting future competitions. Russian officials have denied most of the allegations, but they are investigating some others. The Moscow and regional Russian media are giving intensive coverage both to the charges and to the realities (,, and
International Ski Federation Head Says He Won’t Be at Sochi.  The Sochi Games “will not be a big party. That’s not the Russian way,” Gianfraco Kasper, the head of the International Ski Federation said, adding that the Sochi region is an inappropriate place to hold a winter competition.  He said that the Sochi competition is likely to be “a turning point” in the history for the Olympics, prompting limits on the size and cost of such competitions. If the current “gigantism” continues, he said. They “will disintegrate: always more, always bigger. They’re no longer manageable, and they will get out of control”

Gay Activists Protest Sochi Olympic Event in New York.  Chanting that “homophobia has got to go” and urging Americans “not to buy Putin’s lies,” a group of gay activists in New York staged a protest on the edges of a meeting in Times Square devoted to the US Olympic Team and its plans for Sochi.  Duncan Osborne, a member of Queer nation, said that .“The USOC and the international community should not legitimize Russia’s violations of fundamental human rights by holding the Games in that country. Russia has placed itself well outside the bounds of global human rights standards and no international event should be held there” (

Sochi has Been Split into One City for the Rich and Another for Everyone Else, Residents Say. Sochi residents say that the integrity of their city has been destroyed by massive investments that benefit only a tiny number of the wealthy while disrupting the lives of the poorer majority and that the situation is only going to get worse because many of the traditional business owners there are fleeing to other cities or even abroad because of the worsening business climate they now experience (
Kozak Now Says Sochi Facilities Will Be Completed by December 25.  Even though Russian officials from Vladimir Putin on down have insisted that facilities for the Olympic games are complete and need only “cosmetic” attention, Vice Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak who is overseeing them now says that they will be finished only by December 25, almost a year later than promised.  He also told Moscow papers that there are enormous piles of construction debris still to be hauled away. To that end, Russian officials are recruiting students and pensioners from across the country to clean up the mess left by contractors (
Storm Damage to Sochi Sea Wall Threatens Olympic Construction.  Vladimir Slobodyan, head of the Moscow Institute of Ecoloical Prediction and Research, says that the deformation of the coastal areas of Sochi, including damage to the sea wall there threaten Olympic facilities by weakening the soil under their foundtions. Had officials planned for these problems, they could have been addressed earlier and easier, he said, but now, fixing these problems without massive reconstruction will be hard or even imposible (
MVD Now Says It Will Have 42,000 Police and 10,000 Troops in Sochi for Security. Russia’s interior ministry says it is boosting the number of police and troops it will be sending to Sochi and environs for the Olympics to 42,000 and 10,000 respectively. Many of these will be send to Krasnodar kray from other regions of Russia in the near future (
Sochi Residents Thrown Out of Their Homes; Some May Be Expelled from Russia.Ever more Sochi residents are being expelled from their homes to allow officials to finish up Olympic construction.  Some of them may even be expelled from the Russian Federation. While this process has been going on for months, it has only recently begun to attract significant media attention (  and
28,000 Georgians Sign Petition Urging Boycott of Sochi Games. Some 28,000 Georgians have now signed a petition calling on Tbilisi to boycott the Sochi Games. Some activists there have stressed that Georgia can do no less given that “Sochi was the capital of Circassia,” a nation that Georgians have close ties with, have recognized the genocide of, and are pledged to support (
Russian Sports Channel Acknowleges Sochi Games to Cost 47 Billion US Dollars., which serves as the official spokesman for Russian sports, now says the Sochi Games will cost 47 billion US dollars, 40 billion of which will go to infrastructure.  These amounts are almost an order of magnitude larger than Vladimir Putin has admitted and, because they are given on a site many Russian fans turn to, they are certain to increase popular anger at the amount of money being spend on this activity (
EWNC Points to Continuing Legal Violations in Construction of Road to Putin Dacha.  Ecological Watch on th North Caucasus reports that violations of environmental protection laws and highway construction rules continue to mount in one part of the Olympic region in particular: in the construction of the highway to Vladimir Putin’s dacha ( and
Sochi to Be ‘Poligon for Russian Special Services,’ Soldatov and Borogan Say. Andrey Soldatov and Irina Borogan, Russia’s leading independent speciallists on the country’s secretive security services, say that Moscow is allowing the security agencies to do whatever they want in the name of security there, including many invasive procedures that violate Russian and international law (
Path of Olympic Torch in Karelia Kept Secret from Journalists.  Officials in Karelia have refused to tell journalists what the path of the Olympic torch will be lest the journalists or activists interfere with its passage.  These officials have also create “forbidden zones” in Petrozavodsk in order to guarantee security for the torchbearers and otherwise discommoded local residents.  According to one report, “hen the Olympic flame left [that city], all its residents breathed a sign of relief” (
Merchandizing Russian Flag in Athletic Competitions Sparks Anger.  Russians are upset that some organizers of athletic events in Russia are now allowing sponsors to put their logos right on the Russian flag, something one Russian described as “a final shame” of the country (
Sochi School Children Challenge Olympic Boosters.  At what was supposed to be a celebration of the Sochi Games, just 100 days away, sports officials visited Sochi schools, but many pupils challenged them. One said that “it is a little strange and unusual that the winter Olympiad will take place in Sochi. It woud be better to have summer games here.”  Another said she’d like to get involved in ice skating but that the local rink had been closed. And a teacher said that Olympic construction had brought crowds and lines but little of benefit to her city (
Sochi’s Muslim Women Get Organized.  The Muslim women of Sochi have formed their own group to promote Islamic values to their families and to take part in any public exhibitions about the historical residents of the city (
St. Petersburg’s Hopes to Become a Future Olympic City Said ‘Wishful Thinking.’Some in Russia’s northern capital, including Mayor Georgy Poltavchenko, would like to promote their city as the site of the 2024 Summer Games, but Russian sports writers say that this is wishful thinking until after Sochi is a success and until St. Petersburg proves it can handle such an event by successfully organizing the 2018 World Cup competition (
Sochi Police Tell Jew He Can’t Pray in Public.  A Sochi policeman told a visiting Jewish believer that he could not pray in a public train station but might do so in the station’s toilets. Another policeman said he could pray in public but only for 20 minutes (
40 Percent of Russians Say Olympic Preparations Hurt Country’s Economy. Four out of ten Russians told the Public Opinion Foundation that preparations for Sochi have had “extremely negative consequences for the Russian economy,” outnumbering those who said the games were helping the economy or having no impact at all.  Half of the respondents said they would like to see the Olympic torch – only 7 percent said they would be going to the games – but 34 percent said they were indifferent to the much-ballyhooed torch route (
Moscow Website Publishes Map Showing Neighborhoods with ‘Illegal Aliens.’ Russian State Radio’s Vesti FM published a map on its website marking on the neighborhoos that supposedly have dense populations of illegal gastarbeiters, an action that Human Rights Watch says is a virtual invitation for Russian nationalists to attack in those areas.  Russian civil society activists have called for the site to take the map down, but the station has refused saying that it is “not calling for violence” and that “the map merely highlights neighborhoods, not [specific] addresses” (
Destruction in Sochi from Latest Storm Documented. A Russian blogger has posted more than 25 photographs showing the destruction of the coastline and related facilities in Sochi during the course of the latest storm. Not only do the pictures show that much now needs to be rebuilt or provided with additional foundation support, but they indicate that earlier efforts to patch things up in this area were hasty and inadequate (
Sochi City Government Wants to Forcibly Close Evangelical Church.  To make way for more profitable housing construction, the Sochi city administration is seeking to force the local evangelical church to close and then sell the building and land. The church is fighting back in court, but it is far from clear whether its members will be able to protect the place where they meet and pray (
Sochi Said ‘Fumbling’ Its Tourist Opportunity.  Most Olympic cities use the Games to promote their cities as a whole so that even after the competition people around the world will have a reason to go there, but according to Russian branding experts, Moscow has promoted the Olympics and nothing else about Sochi. That means people will associate Sochi only with the games and have little interest in going there after the Olympiad ends (
Moscow Has Destroyed What Society There Was in Sochi, Activist Says.  Because of the legacy of the Soviet system and the actions of the current Russian government, there is no society in Sochi to take responsibility for running the city, according to a local civic activist. “There are individuls nad small grous which present only their only interests and are incapable of expressing a common Sochi-wide interest,” and that is exactly how the authorities in Moscow and in Sochi want it because the lack of broader groups gives them greater freedom of action (
Sochi Merchants Upset by Rules for Olympic Period.  Sochi entrepreneurs have had to agree to get their supplies only between midnight and eight am during the period of the games, as well as agree to other restrictions on their activities, something that they say means they won’t be able to operate effectively.  And they are especially angry because “not in a single one of the points of the laconic document [they have been forced to sign] is anything said about the responsibilities of the authorities” to them (  and
Moscow Scholar Acknowledges Problems in Sochi Construction.  Mikhail Lychagin, a geographer at Moscow State University, says that he does not believe that Sochi construction has had an irreversibly negative impact on the environment but acknowledges that the construction of Olympic facilities has ot been “absolutely positive” in that regard ( ).
Putin and Kozak ‘Hope for Snow’ But Order More to be Stored in Freezers. President Vladimir Putin and Vice Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak say that they “hope for snow” during next February’s games but have ordered the stockpiling of 700,000 cubic meters of the stuff just in case, almost twice as much as officials had said the authorities were keeping in freezers should the Sochi winter prove to be too mild (
Sochi Residents Demonstrate in Support of Greenpeace and Arctic Sunrise.  A small group of environmental activists in Sochi staged a protest in support of those Greenpeace activists on the Arctic Sunrise who have been arrested by the Russian authorities. They carried signs saying “Activism is not a crime” and “Freedom for the Arctic” (
Expulsion of Gastarbeiters Eases Concerns of Some in Sochi.  The roundup and expulsion of Central Asian and Caucasian gastarbeiters in Sochi has eased the concerns of some in that Olympic city that the population of their city would remain dramatically changed even after the games are over, but the departure of these workers has left many vacancies that construction and other firms are struggling to fill (
US Sends Diplomatic Security Agents to Help in Sochi.  The US embassy in Moscow says that the United States, as part of an informal agreement between Presidents Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama, has sent a team of Diplomatic Security agents to help ensure security at the Olympiad (
Novgorod Resident Angered when Officials Allow Georgian to Carry Olympic Torch. Residents of Novgorod are upset because Olympic officials decided, apparently at the last moment, to allow an ethnic Georgian to carry the Olympic torch through the city. Earlier, these same officials had promised two ethnic Russian girls that they would be given that honor (
Thanks to Sochi Spending, Term ‘White Elephant’ Enters Russians’ Vocabulary. As a result of extraordinarily expensive projects that have little longterm benefit, a Polish commentator says, Russians are now using a new term, “white elephant,” to describe what is taking place under President Vladimir Putin (
Sochi Corruption Case Described in Detail.  Many writers have talked about the extraordinary corruption in and around Sochi, but a new article details exactly how one corrupt enterprise stole so much and so easily. It thus provides a window into a world that the Russian authorities have done their best to keep closed (
Corruption Involved in Legalization of Illegal Construction.  Many wealthy or well-connected Russians have been able to have many of their 800 illegal construction projects in Sochi blessed as legal by local officials and this combination has helped destroy the skyline of the city and undermine all previous city plans (
Rostov Modeling Agency Advertises for Young Women to Work in Sochi During Games.  A Rostov-na-Donu modeling agency has advertised for 400 attractive young women to work in Sochi during the Olympiad. Besides smiling and meeting guests, their duties are not otherwise described but they are promised earning of 400 US dollars a day (
Krasnodar Authorities Detain Civic Activists in Advance of Olympiad.  The authorities in Krasnodar kray are detaining ecological and human rights activists for various periods, apparently in an attempt to intimidate them in advance of the Sochi Olympics (
Moscow Unveils Underwater Machine Gun to Provide Security at Sochi.  Russian officials have shown to the media their new underwater machine gun, an amphibious assault rifle which can be fired under water and above it, as part of their armory for the Olympic Games (
Kudepsta Residents Continue Protests.  Residents of the Kudepsta district of Sochi are continuing to block traffic in an effort to force the authorities to live up to their promises not to build a new power station in their area (
Gay Group Plans ‘Open Games’ in Moscow.  The Russian LGBT Sport Federation plans to hold an “open” games in Moscow three days after Sochi in order to showcase gay sports figures and challenge Russia’s anti-gay law. Its organizer told “The New York Times” that “I’m not afraid. I’m apprehensive. We don’t know how the government will take this” (
Russian Officials Put up a Real Potemkin Village. Russian officials have often been accused of erecting “Potemkin villages” to hide the real situation in their country, but now in Sochi, they have done so in reality, putting up large canvases with pictures of houses on them to cover unattractive and unreconstructed apartment blocks in the city (
Moscow TV Says West Engaged in Cold War-Type ‘Hysteria’ over Gay Rights in Russia. A Russian television channel has said that American media are engaged in a campaign to generate “hysteria” about gay rights in advance of the Sochi Games, a campaign that is unprecedented since the end of the Cold War (
Sochi Streets Become Canals Because of Bad Drainage.  The storm sewers in Sochi are so inadequate that after any heavy rain, residents say, many of the streets become like the canals of Venice with cars having to go through very deep water (
Russian Nationalist Says Country Doesn’t Need Sochi Games. Maksim Kalashnikov, a Russian nationalist commentator, says that the country doesn’t need the games and that the way they have been organized is “a crime.”  For what has been spent on them, it would be possible to build “a second Russia,” with new houses and social facilities for all (
Russian Labor Ministry Asks Regions to Send Unemployed to Sochi … The Russian Ministry of Labor has asked all the regions of the  Russian Federation to send their unemployed to Sochi to help finish construction and clean up the city before the Games, the latest indication that the roundup of gastarbeiters is making it difficult for contractors to complete their work (
… As Finance Ministry Triples Budget for Cossack Presence in Sochi.  The Russian finance ministry says it has allocated three times as much to support the presence of Cossack forces in Sochi than it had announced earlier, an indication both of growing cost overruns and of growing security concerns (
Gay US Commentator May Not Speak Out in Moscow.  Johnny Weir, an openly gay former US figure skating champion who will work as an NBC  commentator at the Sochi Games, apparently won’t speak out against Russia’s anti-gay laws.  He told the “New York Times” that he “risks jail time just going there, but the Olympics are not ht eplace to make a political statement.” But in a comment on NBC’s Today Show, he was somewhat ambiguous about what he will in fact do: “I’m a gay American. I’ve married into a Russian family … While this law is a terrible thing tht you can’t be gay publicly in Russia, I plan to be there in full support of our brothers and sisters there and not be araid. If I get arrested, I get arrested; if not, great” (–Media.html  and
Three Dozen Members of US Congress Call on USOC to Defend Gays at Sochi. Three dozen members of the US Congress have signed a letter to Scott Blackmun, head of the US Olympic Committee, calling on him to defend the First Amendment rights of US athletes against the IOC which in deference to Moscow says they must not conduct any political actions in Sochi (
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