- A Politicized Statement in an Academic Template
- Between Empire’s Consul and Federation’s Ambassador / Russian Propaganda Against Circassians Never Missed an Opportunity
- Press Release: The Circassians: Past, Present and Future – In Remembrance of Paul Henze and Kemal Karpat
- Speech of Former President of Kabardino-Balkarian Republic, Valery Kukov on the 130th Commemoration of the End of the Russo-Caucasian War / 1994
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Monthly Archives: January 2014
Note: This is my 49th 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 firstname.lastname@example.org Allow me to express my thanks to all those who already have. Paul Goble
London Warns Terrorist Attacks in Russia ‘Very Likely’ Before or During Games.Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office says that terrorist attacks are “very likely to occur” in the Russian Federation before or during the Sochi Games. According to the BBC, “the FCO advises against all travel to Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan and the districts of Budyonnovsky, Levokumsky, Neftekumsky, Stepnovsky and Kursky in Stavropol Krai. It alsoadvises against all but essential travel to North Ossetia, Karachai-Cherkessia and Kabardino-Balkaria” (bbc.co.uk/news/uk-25907140).
Russian Physical Security Quite Good at Sochi, Experts Say, But Counter-Intelligence on Terrorism Questioned. Most Western experts and officials say that Russia has established good but not absolute physical security in Sochi and at the Olympic venues, but the unwillingness of Russia to share information raises questions about whether Moscow’s intelligence about terrorists is equal to the challenge that the Russian government faces, especially given the proclivity of terrorists to exploit international sports events and the “uptick” in security threats there that US officials have spoken of in recent days. Experts are also concerned about the implications of Russia’s rejection of significantly expanded cooperation with the US and the UK despite its being offered and the possibility that physical security in Sochi will lead terrorists to attack elsewhere(washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/fbi-efforts-to-assist-sochi-olympics-limited-by-russians/2014/01/24/7c17c6fe-8370-11e3-8099-9181471f7aaf_story.html, sportingnews.com/sport/story/2014-01-23/2014-sochi-olympics-threats-draw-tight-security-russian-security-massive, washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/fbi-efforts-to-assist-sochi-olympics-limited-by-russians/2014/01/24/7c17c6fe-8370-11e3-8099-9181471f7aaf_story.html, foxnews.com/world/2014/01/24/expert-area-around-sochi-olympics-almost-as-dangerous-as-iraq/,salon.com/2014/01/25/the_sochi_olympics_putins_shiny_new_surveillance_state/,
Russia Doesn’t Need NATO’s Help with Sochi Security, Lavrov Says. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says that Russia does not need assistance from NATO to provide security at Sochi. Moscow is full capable of doing so by itself (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237424/and kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237375/).
US-Russian Security Cooperation on Sochi Strictly Limited. The US Department of Defense and the Russian Ministry of Defense have agreed to maintain close contacts during the Sochi Olympiad, but Moscow has been unwilling to agree to large-scale American involvement in Sochi because of underlying mistrust between Moscow and Washington. There will be a small FBI presence in Moscow and Sochi, but experts say that the role of the US will be far more limited than it has been in other Olympiads over the last two decades. That has led some in Congress to express concern, although most who have spoken on this issue have expressed confidence that the games themselves will be safe (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237437/, blogs.cfr.org/zenko/2014/01/26/why-the-u-s-and-russia-wont-cooperate-to-protect-the-sochi-games/#cid=soc-twitter-at-blogs-why_the_us_and_russia_won8217t-012614, sports.yahoo.com/news/us-russia-tensions-flare-over-winter-olympics-security-033015622–oly.html, and thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/196435-king-no-guarantee-of-safety-for-olympians).
US Olympians Urged Not to Call Attention to Themselves. The US Olympic Committee has told its athletes to avoid wearing uniforms in public that identify themselves as Americans lest they attract the attention of terrorists. The US State Department says this is a normal precaution and does not reflect any finding that terrorists in the North Caucasus are targeting US citizens (echo.msk.ru/news/1244792-echo.html,washingtonpost.com/sports/olympics/sochi-2014-security-concerns-a-reality-for-us-olympians-and-their-families/2014/01/27/cca2f582-87a1-11e3-833c-33098f9e5267_story.html and fox4kc.com/2014/01/26/warning-to-u-s-athletes-no-olympic-uniform-outside-sochi-venues/).
Families of Some US Olympians Choose Not to Go to Sochi. Because of security concerns, some family members who would normally attend such competitions will not be going to Sochi. Those who are planning to attend say that security issues are never out of their minds but that they hope the Russians will be able to prevent any attack (scpr.org/news/2014/01/29/41876/sochi-2014-why-some-athletes-families-will-sit-out/ andcbsnews.com/news/more-us-olympians-tell-their-families-to-skip-sochi/).
Russian Sports Minister Acknowledges Sochi Not Ready. As the clock ticks down to the time of the opening ceremony on February 7, it is becoming harder and harder for Russian officials to maintain their stance that everything is ready. Some, like Mayor Pakhomov try, but most are backing away and using words like “almost” and “nearly.” But Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko has now acknowledged that “to be honest, not everything is” and that in some places, “there is more to do” (newizv.ru/sport/2014-01-29/196199-ministr-sporta-rf-vitalij-mutko.html). Evidence that there is a lot more to do, especially involving roads, sidewalks, hotels, and support facilities is provided by local reporting and extensive pictorial documentation, including blogsochi.ru/content/olimpiiskie-zadvorki-2, blogsochi.ru/content/10-dnei-do-mezhdunarodnogo-skandala-v-sochi, blogsochi.ru/content/predskazaniya-sochintsam-bezoblachnogo-zavtra-ot-kozaka-i-koe-chto-eshche, blogsochi.ru/content/olimpiiskii-slovar-nedelya-s-mariannoi-maksimoskoi, blogsochi.ru/content/olimpiiskii-dubler-za-12-dnei-do-igr,
privetsochi.ru/blog/photo/41107.html, privetsochi.ru/blog/sitiproblem/41082.html,privetsochi.ru/blog/news_sochi/41056.html and gorod.afisha.ru/changes/gorod-za-nedelyu-do-nachala-igr/).
Putin Said Using Olympiad to Solve Domestic and Foreign Policy Tasks. Islam Tekushev, the editor of the Prague-based “Caucasus Times,” says that it is clear that “the Olympiad in Sochi has become for the Kremlin a suitable pretext for the resolution of certain domestic and foreign policy tasks, above all the issues of societal mobilization and an increase in patriotism … and an expansion of its presence in the Caucasus and on the Black Sea. Putin’s Moscow has broadened its presence in Abkhazia and South Osetia” still further as a result of the games. Other analysts have made same point and suggested Putin may use the Games to attack Ukraine or somewhere else just as he did the Beijing Games in 2008 to attack Georgia (caucasustimes.com/article.asp?id=21243 andregnum.ru/news/polit/1759946.html).
Sochi Games Likely to Be Declared Successful If There is Snow But No Terrorism.A commentary in London’s “Spectator” newspaper said that “given the incredibly low expectations” that most people have for Sochi, “the Russian games may even be judged a success as long as the weather stays cold and no terrorist attack takes place.” But even if those conditions are met, the Games have “backfired” against Vladimir Putin because of the anger that many Russians feel about the cost and corruption involved and because of the opposition of many in the West to his “broader campaign against homosexuality.” This general lowering of expectations is reflected in articles which specify that things are fine in Sochi because the torch hasn’t gone out recently (spectator.co.uk/features/9126622/putins-pink-peril/ and privetsochi.ru/blog/Flood/41168.html).
IOC President Criticizes World Leaders for Not Coming to Sochi … Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee, criticized those world leaders who are refusing to come to the Sochi Games. They are politicizing something that should be about athletic competition. He acknowledged that “there had been many problems in Sochi but one must consider that the IOC has worked on them if they concern the Olympics. I call for a discussion based on facts,” he said (vedomosti.ru/sochi-2014/news/21879711/prezident-mok-raskritikoval-politikov).
… While Russia’s Chernyshenko Says 60 are Coming … Dmitry Chernyshenko, head of the Russian organizing committee, says that despite being some of the busiest people on earth, some 60 chiefs of state, heads of government, and senior national and international organization officials will be coming to Sochi. According to his count, that will be the greatest number ever to attend a Winter Olympiad (izvestia.ru/news/564547).
… And Complains Bach Didn’t Go Far Enough in Opposing Protests. Although the IOC’s Thomas Bach said that athletes should not engage in political demonstrations at the Olympics, Dmitry Chernyshenko, head of Russia’s organizing committee, said the IOC head should have gone further: “He might have mentioned that there is a rule 50 in the Olympic Charter which limits the expression of any propaganda during the Games,” Chernyshenko said. “I don’t think they (athletes) are allowed by the Charter to express those views that are not related to the sport at the press conference room.” He said that any athlete or visitor who felt he or she had to make a statement hould do so at the “Sochi speakers’ corner” some 7.5 miles away from the venues (mobile.reuters.com/article/idUSBREA0S13M20140129?irpc=932).
Many ‘Volunteers’ in Sochi are in Fact Security Officers. Many of the security officials working in Sochi are dressed as volunteers, the better to fit in but a possible explanation of what many see as the impolite and off-putting behavior of the volunteers. Many of the security personnel who have been brought in are living in Spartan conditions and are unhappy with their lot, according to Russian reporters (privetsochi.ru/blog/bred_sochi/41025.html andsvpressa.ru/politic/article/81157/?rtc=1).
Two Cows Wander through Sochi Olympic Village. Two unsupervised cows wandered into and out of the Olympic village prompting residents to ask “has anyone lost a cow?” (privetsochi.ru/blog/horses/40927.html and privetsochi.ru/blog/bred_sochi/41021.html).
Picture of Two Toilets in One Sochi Stall Goes Viral, Prompts Sharp Russian Reaction. A photograph taken by BBC correspondent Steve Rosenberg showing two toilets in a single stall in a Sochi facility went viral. Many Americans wondered what was going on, but many Russians viewed this as symbolic of much that is wrong with the Sochi Games. Russian officials only made it worse by putting out an implausible story about how these toilets were not connected and one of which was about to be moved (http://nypost.com/2014/01/29/russia-olympics-in-the-toilets/ andhttp://realty.newsru.com/article/23jan2014/olimptumby).
Both Supporters and Opponents of Sochi Games Drawing on 1980 Moscow Olympic Motifs. Both those who want the Sochi Games to be a big success and those who believe the preparations for the Olympics have undermined that possibility, experts say, are using many themes derived from their predecessors who either supported or opposed the Moscow Games 34 years ago. (buzzfeed.com/vinogrekov/the-art-of-an-olympic-boycott-moscow-1980-vs-soch-gzvy and svpressa.ru/society/article/81137/).
Torch Travails Continue and Intensify in the North Caucasus. The Olympic torch arrived in the North Caucasus where it not only suffered the same problems it faced in other parts of the Russian Federation including going out when it wasn’t supposed to, isolated protests on a variety of subjects, a heavy-handed security presence and a negative reaction by Russian bloggers to people doing the lezginka, something they had objected to earlier as well, but also some new ones in addition. Concerns about security led officials in several of the republics to reduce the length of the route the torch was carried, the number of bearers, and even the size of crowds. Elsewhere officials gave people the day off and ordered students, faculty and government officials to attend. Meanwhile, officials in Sochi itself were preparing for the torch’s arrival there by handing out detailed instructions to residents about how they are expected to behave when it does ( kavpolit.com/olimpijskomu-ognyu-ne-dadut-razgulyatsya-na-kavkaze/, sevkavportal.ru/news/pub/kultura/item/12805-plamya-olimpijskogo-ognya.html,sevkavportal.ru/news/pub/analitics/item/12749-vo-vladikavkaze-v-svyazi-.html, kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237410/, kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237358/,
kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237348/, kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237322/, kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237312/, kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237302/,
Harassment of Foreign Journalists in Sochi Increasing, Norwegian Reporter Says.Øystein Bogen, foreign affairs correspondent for TV2 in Norway, says that the experience of his crew in Sochi earlier this month when they were “stopped,arrested [and] detained more than six times in the course of 48 hours” is becoming increasingly common there. Police there said they suspected he was taking drugs and insisted tht he take a drug test. “I never imagined that any topic would be critical enough to provoke such a reaction,” he said (huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/29/journalist-olympics-sochi-detained-arrested_n_4690457.html).
Russian Authorities Increase Pressure on Opposition Activists in Rostov. Russian officials have fined one activist who held up a sign when the Olympic torch passed an have harassed others in a sign that the authorities hope to intimidate them (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237224/ and ewnc.org/node/13474).
Pakhomov Says ‘There are No Gays’ in Sochi. Speaking to the BBC, Sochi Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov said “we don’t have any gays” in the city but would welcome any among the athletes or fans who attend the games. His claim, undercut by the existence of gay clubs there, recalled the old Soviet line that “there is no sex in the USSR” and sparked widespread derision not only of Pakhomov but other official claims about Sochi (bbc.co.uk/news/uk-25675957, kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237273/, kasparov.ru/material.php?id=52E649913E6C1and kasparov.ru/material.php?id=52E5F1B450A5A).
Pakhomov Says Everything is Ready for the Olympiad Except for a Little Polishing. Despite widespread evidence to the contrary, Sochi Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov said on Russia Today that everything is ready for the opening of the games except for a little cleaning and polishing (privetsochi.ru/blog/politics_sochi/41165.html).
Sochi Not Ready for Paralympics Either. Photographs show that Sochi has not been transformed into the barrier free city it is supposed to be under Olympic rules. But officials are upbeat and say they will hand out special maps to participants and visitors to the Paralympics to guide them on their way (vesti-sochi.tv/olimpiada/22542-gostej-paralimpiady-sorientirujut-v-sochi-po-putevoditeljam, privetsochi.ru/blog/bred_sochi/41034.html and privetsochi.ru/blog/adler/40978.html).
Sochi Seen Leading to ‘Final Break’ between Russian People and Putin. Pavel Basanets, a Moscow commentator, says that the Olympiad will “begin the final break” between the authorities and the people, a prospect that frightens both because of the unpredictability that will entail (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=52E768A0139E0).
Russian Officials Using Fan Passports to Exclude Opposition Figures. Many have been concerned that Moscow’s requirement that all fans attending the Sochi Games have a “fan passport” would allow Moscow to collect information on a wide swath of people, but now more Russians are worried that the authorities are using these documents to exclude those who oppose the regime or who are in categories that Moscow assumes might be a problem (svpressa.ru/politic/article/81157/, kasparov.ru/material.php?id=52E4F6112A658 and
Navalny Launches Interactive Website on Waste, Fraud and Abuse at Sochi. Aleksey Navalny, a leading Russian opposition figure who has made his name by fighting corruption, has launched an interactive website detailing the massive waste, fraud and abuse at Sochi, with particular attention to the corruption and violation of rights these things have involved (foxnews.com/sports/2014/01/27/russian-activist-creates-sochi-olympics-corruption-website/,kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237352/, buzzfeed.com/maxseddon/eye-popping-excerpts-from-a-report-alleging-corruption-at, sochi.fbk.info/en/award/,in.reuters.com/article/2014/01/27/olympics-russia-cost-idINDEEA0Q0BC20140127 andblogsochi.ru/content/aleksei-navalnyi-o-tom-skolko-stoila-na-samom-dele-olimpiada-v-sochi).
Ukrainian Protesters Call for a Boycott of Sochi. A group of Ukrainians taking part in the anti-Yanukovich Maidan have called for the international community to “demonstrate solidarity with Ukrainians by boycotting the Sochi Olympic Games” because Russian “dictator Putin is heavily involved” in supporting the incumbent Ukrainian president’s repression of his own people. Meanwhile, an unconfirmed rumor is circulating that the NHL may decide its players should not go to Sochi because of security questions. Meanwhile, some Russian nationalists are saying that the West organized the Ukrainian demonstrations in order to take revenge on Putin for Sochi (facebook.com/vasyl.myroshnychenko/posts/10100113557531961:0, nhl.si.com/2014/01/28/top-line-would-nhl-skip-sochi-games-steven-stamkos-scare-more-links/ and rossiyanavsegda.ru/read/1676/).
Daghestani Salafis Told Not to Travel Beyond Their Republic While Sochi is in Progress. Salafi Muslims in Daghestan have been told by officials there not to travel beyond the borders of their home republic while the Olympics are in progress, a violation of the Russian Constitution but a step taken because the Salafis are often identified by Russian officials as jihadists (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237126/ and kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237126/).
Moscow Seeks to Coopt and Use Circassians as ‘Decoration’ at Sochi. Circassians overwhelmingly oppose the holding of the Olympics in Sochi because that was the site of the 1864 genocide visited upon their people, but both because the Olympic Charter requires the host country to acknowledge indigenous peoples and to counter Circassian calls for a boycott of the Sochi Games, Russian organizers are using some Circassian leaders who are prepared to cooperate and have invited them to attend the first three days of the Games. (At that time, the Russian hosts released a statement they claimed the group had made but which its members subsequently said they knew nothing about.) That invitation was extended to the Circassians who visited the North Caucasus on Moscow’s invitation last year. Circassians both in the diaspora and in the homeland doubt that the Russian authorities will allow them to play any but a scripted and “decorative” role (balcanicaucaso.org/eng/Regions-and-countries/Russia/Sochi-the-Circassian-factor-146582, vestnikkavkaza.net/m/a/50522,dimak.org/gencdusunceler/2014/1/22/dasporada-ykselen-gen-muhalafetn-moskova-nalk-zlenmler, natpress.ru/index.php?newsid=8661, vestnikkavkaza.net/m/a/50522, andnatpress.net/index.php?newsid=11993).
US Congressman Says Sochi Games Violate Memory of Circassian Victims. Representative Bill Pascell of New Jersey has issued a statement in support of the Circassians and their national aspirations. He asks colleagues to join him in recognizing those rights and also to find that Russia is continuing to violate them and insult the memory of the hundreds of thousands of Circassians who were killed in Sochi and the surrounding area 150 years ago (nosochi2014.com/campaign/statement-of-support-for-circassians-to-us-congress.php).
Russian Anti-Circassian Rhetoric Increasingly Harsh and Extreme. Ever more articles about the Circassian cause are appearing in the Russia media, and an increasing share of them are adopting intemperate language comparing supporters of the Circassians with the Nazis and denouncing as “myths” the genocide and the mistreatment of the Circassian nation by the Russian state. At the same time, ever more articles are appearing in Europe and the West recounting the tragic history of the Circassians (segodnia.ru/content/134469,keepingscore.blogs.time.com/2014/01/22/sochi-weird-facts/, natpress.ru/index.php?newsid=8669m caucasusforum.org/moscow-nalchik-impressions-of-the-young-opposition-rising-in-the-diaspora/,
Circassians Continue Actions in Memory of the Genocide. Circassians in the North Caucasus and in the diaspora continue to hold meetings on a weekly basis to mark 150thanniversary of the genocide visited upon their ancestors by Russian forces (nazaccent.ru/content/10348-cherkesskie-aktivisty-otkryli-god-skorbi-akciej.html).
Ground Water in Some Parts of Sochi Dangerous for Human Consumption. Environmental groups have called attention to the contamination of the ground water in parts of Sochi as a result of Olympic construction, and officials have in effect confirmed their worries by trucking in water for residents, although some of that alternative supply may have been the result of frequent water shut offs also occasioned by construction (rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/brent-patterson/2014/01/sochi-olympics-construction-endangers-local-water-resevoirs).
Sochi Residents Face New Problems. In addition to the problems they have faced over the past year, including but not limited to official malfeasance and harassment, the lack of reliableelectric, water and sewage services, the leakage of raw sewage into public spaces, the expulsion of more than 2000 from their homes, many of whom have gone uncompensated, and the destruction of already problematic infrastructure, this week Sochi residents faced some new problems: the closure of familiar markets, the rerouting of traffic, an increasing number of fences and barriers, the absence of police when residents called for them, and the risk that their pets might be killed if they somehow got out of the house without their owners being nearby. Not surprisingly, some Sochi residents are now saying that the Sochi Olympics have destroyed their city and that it may be “your” Olympiad it isn’t theirs (privetsochi.ru/blog/Flood/41088.html, privetsochi.ru/blog/news_sochi/41016.html,privetsochi.ru/blog/Criminal_Sochi/41000.html, blogsochi.ru/content/prazdnik-za-reshetkoi,sochivodokanal.ru/monitor/, blogsochi.ru/content/%C2%ABdobro%C2%BB-olimpiady,blogsochi.ru/content/pakhnushchii-sochi, blogsochi.ru/content/bezzashchitnye-kurorty-rossii, blogsochi.ru/content/transportnye-ogranicheniya-nachinayut-deistvovat-v-sochi-s-25-yanvarya, privetsochi.ru/blog/Vokrug_Sochi/41201.html,privetsochi.ru/blog/auto_sochi/41119.html privetsochi.ru/blog/sitiproblem/41112.html,
Trash Heaps Rising in Sochi as Builders Rush to Dump and Hide Construction Waste. Wherever they look and often where they don’t expect it, Sochi residents are encountering rising piles of trash from Olympic construction as builders try to meet the opening deadline (blogsochi.ru/content/internet-vsetaki-sila, blogsochi.ru/content/musornyi-khaos-nakanune-igr, blogsochi.ru/content/dvory-olimpiiskogo-goroda-kurorta-sochiprivetsochi.ru/blog/bred_sochi/41144.html, privetsochi.ru/blog/bred_sochi/41129.html,privetsochi.ru/blog/adler/41072.html,
privetsochi.ru/blog/Vokrug_Sochi/41033.html,privetsochi.ru/blog/bred_sochi/41001.html and http://www.privetsochi.ru/blog/eco-sochi/40997.html).
Sochi Officials Putting Out Poison to Kill Stray Dogs and Cats. Sochi officials, although they have not been willing to confirm this, are putting out poison to kill homeless animals or those which are unfortunate enough to get out of their homes without a human partner. Animal rights activists are furious not only because officials have not kept their promises to build a shelter but because of the indiscriminate and cruel means they are using to remove the animals from the streets. One activist has distributed a guide on what to do if a pet is inadvertently poisoned as a result (svoboda.org/content/article/25235016.html, kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237381/, privetsochi.ru/blog/vet/41101.html and triboona.ru/posts/view/701).
Cartoons Against Sochi Become Sharper. Those who are angry about the Olympiad and Vladimir Putin’s policies are increasingly drawing and disseminating cartoons to make their point. Among the best this week was one showing Putin surrounded by security guards doing a snow angel and another showing Russian police using a bomb sniffing dog and a gay sniffing dog to ferret out “enemies.” Another popular way of making such points are posters like one tht says “Friends don’t let friends go to Sochi” (facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=569289726495629&set=a.200485616709377.46743.156326144458658&type=1&theater, tulsaworld.com/opinion/syndicatedcartoons/sochi-security/article_758e2f62-8735-11e3-a514-001a4bcf6878.html?mode=image&photo=0,
Ruble’s Fall Could Boost Foreign Attendance at Sochi. The head of the Russian tourism organization says that the fall of the ruble will make coming to Sochi less expensive for foreigners and thus may boost attendance, but other Russian officials say that the Olympics will lead to an upward correction in the value of the Russian currency relative to others (bloomberg.com/news/2014-01-24/putin-s-sochi-olympics-to-boost-oversold-ruble-market-reversal.html and http://vesti-sochi.tv/olimpiada/22582-glava-rosturizma-snizhenie-kursa-rublja-sprovociruet-rost-interesa-k-rossijskim-kurortam-v-tom-chisle-sochi-).
Voice of Russia Says Advertising of Sochi Sets Record for All Olympics. The Voice of Russia said that “the total values of contracts with sponsors, suppliers, and licensees” amounts to “almost half a trillion dollars [sic].” (That would be 500 billion dollars or ten times the amount even critics say the games cost and is almost certainly a misprint. The network probably meant rubles in which case the amount would be 16 billion US dollars.) That amount, it said, “is an all-time record not only for Winter but also for Summer Olympic Games.” Andrey Mamontov, a Russian marketing expert, said that “of course, advertising contracts will not cover all expendituresfor the preparation for the Olympics, but they may bring a substantial income”(voiceofrussia.com/news/2014_01_30/Sochi-Olympics-sets-advertising-record-9640/).
Sochi Merchandise Not Selling as Well as Predicted. The Russian Olympic organizing committee will receive only about 30 million US dollars from its licensing of Olympic-themed products, far less than the 51 million US dollars the Vancouver Olympiad realized and than the Russian committee had originally projected (themoscowtimes.com/sochi2014/Sochi-Concedes-Defeat-to-Vancouver-in-Merchandise-Sales.html).
Two Suspects in Volgograd Bombings Arrested. Russia’s National Anti-Terrorism Committee said police have arrested two accomplices in the December 2013 Volgograd bombings. It said the two were part of a terrorist group based in Daghestan (metronews.ca/sports/926366/sochi-olympics-2-suspects-arrested-in-suicide-bombing/).
Serbian Gastarbeiters Returning Home from Sochi Say They were Mistreated. According to a report by RFE/RL, “apparently the much-touted ‘Slavic brotherhood’ beteen Russians and Serbs doesn’t extend to migrant workers.” Approximately 100 ethnic Serbs from Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina have now returned to their homelands and report they were mistreated and harassed by Russian companies and officials in Sochi (rferl.org/content/serb-workers-sochi-olympic/25240405.html).
Many Russians View Sochi Games as “Just Another Disaster to Be Survived.” “Even beyond the societies of social activists and environmentalists,” Bellona reports, “there are plenty of people [in Russia] who have plenty of Olympic-related woes on their mind[s]. But few of them areespecially forthcoming. It’s all just another disaster to be survived, another turn of the Kremlin gears they hope not to get crushed by … As one activist [said], ‘It’s just something called life in Russia’” (bellona.org/news/russian-human-rights-issues/2014-01-olympic-climate-change-hitting-krasnodar-hard).
More than 50 Olympians Call for Moscow to Repeal Anti-Gay Laws. Some 52 current and past Olympians have signed the Principle Six Campaign which calls for Moscow to repeal its anti-gay legislation. Among them are Martina Navratilova and Greg Louganis (theguardian.com/sport/2014/jan/30/olympic-athletes-russia-repeal-anti-gay-laws).
Bad Weather Traps 158 Buses Heading for Sochi. A major snow storm has blocked 158 buses travelling to Sochi for the Olympiad. The snow has also limited travel on even the largest roads and delayed but not yet stopped trains in the area. More bad weather is predicted for the next week in the mountains north of Sochi (aif.ru/olymp2014/olympnews/1094008 and
IOC President Reiterates Sexual Minorities Won’t Face Problems in Sochi. Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, says that his group has “guarantees from the Russian authorities” that the Olympic Charter will be observed and that during the Games there will not be any manifestations of discrimination including on the basis of sexual orientation” (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237325/).
Russian Finance Minister Acknowledges Moscow Spent 50 Billion US Dollars in Sochi. Finance Minister Anton Siluanov told Ekho Moskvy that Mosco had spent a total of 1.5 trillion rubles (50 billion US dollars) to get ready for the Olympiad, a figure far closer to the estimates of independent experts than the ones that continue to be offered by President Vladimir Putin and his administration (sochinskie-novosti.com/2014/01/24/%D0%BC%D0%B5%D0%B3%D0%B0%D0%BF%D1%80%D0%BE%D0%B5%D0%BA%D1%82-%D1%81%D0%BE%D1%87%D0%B8-2014-%D0%BE%D0%B1%D0%BE%D1%88%D0%B5%D0%BB%D1%81%D1%8F-%D0%B2-1-5-%D1%82%D1%80%D0%B8%D0%BB%D0%BB%D0%B8%D0%BE%D0%BD%D0%B0-%D1%80%D1%83%D0%B1%D0%BB%D0%B5%D0%B9/ ).
Sochi Games have Made North Caucasian Instability ‘More Visible.’ Michal Romanowski, program coordinator for the German Marshall Fund of the United States in Warsaw, says that the North Caucasus has “for two decades been on a steady, permanent boil.” The Sochi Games have simply made this reality “mmore visible,” and he suggested that “the terrorists of the North Caucasus will do their best to ensur that the world does not forget them” (blog.gmfus.org/2014/01/29/sochis-other-games-putin-against-the-terrorists/).
Moscow Furious at Use of Olympic Torch in Dubai. Russian officials, from the Olympic committee to the foreign ministry, have expressed outrage that several hotels in Dubai are displaying Olympic symbols and even conducting what Moscow has called an “illegitimate” torch relay. Sochi organizers say that only they are allowed to have such a relay at the present (sochi2014.rsport.ru/torchrelay/20140130/718918886.html and
US-Born Buddhist Among Sochi Torch Bearers. Erdni Ombadykov, a Kalmyk lama from Philadelphia who returned to the Buddhist region of the Russian Federation earlier at the suggestion of the Dalai Lama, was one of the torch bearers in Kalmykia (en.rsport.ru/olympics/20140125/717881919.html).
Obama Received Standing Ovation in Congress for Reference to Sochi. US President Barack Obama was given a standing ovation during his State of the Union address when he referred to Sochi by saying “We believe in the inherent dignity and equality of every human being, regardless of race or religion, creed or sexual orientation. Next week the world will see one expression of that commitment when Team USA marches the red, white and blue into the Olympic stadium and brings home the gold” (olympictalk.nbcsports.com/2014/01/29/president-obama-mentions-olympics-in-state-of-the-union/). Obama subsequently said that he would suggest that friends consider going to the Sochi Games even though he will not be attending (cnn.com/video/data/2.0/video/international/2014/01/31/newday-jake-tapper-obama-on-sochi-olympics.cnn.html).
UNGA Issues Call for Olympic Truce. John Ash, the president of the 68th session of the UN General Assembly, formally issued the call to countries participating in the Sochi Games for an Olympic truce (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237435/).
German City Refuses to Host ‘Welcome to Sochi’ Exhibit. The German city of Kassel said that it would not host an exhibit of the satirical works of Vasily Slonov about Sochi, not because of the content of his pictures but because he is not a resident of that city (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237408/).
ICG Says Putin’s Approach in North Caucasus Points to More Violence Ahead. The International Crisis Group in a report entitled “Too Far, Too Fast: Sochi, Tourism and Conflict in the Caucasus” says that the approach Russian President Vladimir Putin has adopted to secure the Olympics “may temporarily suppress the symptoms of the North Caucasus insurgency, but they cannot solve the core problems” (crisisgroup.org/en/regions/europe/north-caucasus/228-too-far-too-fast-sochi-tourism-and-conflict-in-the-caucasus.aspx).
Refugees in Ingushetia Plan Flashmob for February 7. Refugees who were forced to flee as a result of the conflict between Chechnya and Ingushetia in the early 1990s say they will stage a flashmob on the day of the opening of the Sochi Olympiad in the hopes that they will be able to attract international attention to their plight (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237334/).
Was Report about ‘Black Widows’ in Sochi an FSB Provocation? Some in Sochi have suggested that a story about the presence of the so-called “Black Widows” in that city, a story the FSB has since disowned, was given to Aleksandr Valov, editor of Blogsochi.ru, in order to discredit his independent reporting (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237211/ and kavpolit.com/v-fsb-oprovergayut-informaciyu-o-naxozhdenii-v-sochi-potencialnoj-smertnicy-ibragimovoj/).
Valov Tells Putin Moscow Apparently Doesn’t Want to Know about Sochi Problems.Aleksandr Valov, the editor of Blogsochi.ru, has posted an open letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin saying that the response of the Russian security forcess to reports about problems in Sochi suggests that Moscow doesn’t want to know the truth so that it can fix things but only to ensure that nothing critical appears. That is not only preventing the problems from being corrected but is undermining public confidence in the central government. If that continues, “then it will be necessary to create a GULAG on the bass of the FSB or organize mass shootings on the eve of the Olympiad” (blogsochi.ru/content/pismo-vladimiru-putinu-po-povodu-olimpiiskikh-repressii-v-sochi).
Supporters and Critics Agree Sochi a ‘Litmus Test’ of Russia’s Future. Supporters of the Sochi Games say the Olympiad marks the revival of Russia, while critics say the event is “an illustration of the ineffectiveness and corrupt nature of the Russian state.” But the two agree that Sochi is “a litmus test” of the direction Russia is heading, although they continue to disagree about that as well, a Moscow commentator says (blogsochi.ru/content/pokazaniya-svidetelei-ili-forbes-ob-olimpiiskom-sochi).
Cemetery Near Olympic Park Heavily Damaged by Games Construction. Russian reporters have played up the fact that the Sochi venues were carefully built around an Old Believer cemetery, but they have generally ignored the fact that the same construction has left another cemetery at the periphery of the Olympic park full of puddles and waste (blogsochi.ru/content/kladbishche-vozle-olimpiiskogo-parka).
Sochi Cultural-Historical Center Still Only a Skeleton. The Sochi Cultural-Historical Center where Russian officials had promised that local cultures would be represented is far from completion. Indeed, pictures show that only some of the framework has been done and that most of the building remains covered, a la a Potemkin village, with canvas (blogsochi.ru/content/kulturno-istoricheskii-tsentr-v-sele-nekrasovka).
Sochi Officials Say They’ll Deploy Sochi Youth During Games. Sochi officials have announced that children of families living in the Olympic city will be forced to help out the holding of the Olympics regardless of what their parents think. That has sparked anger among some about state interference, despite President Vladimir Putin’s promises, in the lives of families (blogsochi.ru/content/%C2%ABdeti-nakhodyashchiesya-v-gorode-budut-zadeistvovany-v-obshchegorodskikh-meropriyatiyakh%C2%BB).
European Federation of Journalists Warns of Problems Those Covering Sochi Face. The EFJ says that those who travel to Sochi to cover the Games will face violence against journalists, the blocking of critical online comment, homophobic laws and action, restrictions on their work and open harassment, among other problems (us6.campaign-archive2.com/?u=312d2086b1b5654e5e6957dd9&id=bc7fccf3a6&e=2bcf09b2ef).
Foreign Governments Give Advice to Those Planning to Go to Sochi. In an article entitled “Don’t Drink With People You Don’t Know and Don’t Express Your Opinion,” Moscow’s “Kommersant” newspaper says that the governments of countries taking part in the Sochi Olympiad are giving those planning to go a variety of advice. The Spanish foreign ministry say that its citizens should learn at least a little Russian, its German counterpart says German visitors mustn’t photograph military facilities, and its French counterpart says French citizens must avoid taking photographs of any Russian security officers or police (kommersant.ru/doc/2393190).
Sochi Shaken by Small Earthquake. A small earthquake, 3.5 on the Richter scale, centered off the coast of Sochi was not felt by most people but serves as a reminder that the entire region is tectonically active (privetsochi.ru/blog/news_sochi/41148.html).
Sochi Hotels Will Have to Be Converted into Condos After Games. In order to recoup some of their investments, those who have built hotels for the games are likely going to have to covert them into condominiums after the games, Russian real estate experts say. The implication of this is that most of them do not believe that Sochi will attract the continuing flow of visitors that Moscow officials have projected (privetsochi.ru/blog/realty_sochi/41092.html).
Sochi Residents Warned Against Manipulation by Media. Privetsochi.ru published a list of ten ways in which the media seek to manipulate people, including distracting attention, creating problems in order to offer a solution, using emotions rather than reason, and knowing more about people than the people know about themselves (privetsochi.ru/blog/Flood/41085.html).
Russians Joke about How Future History Books Will Treat Sochi Games. According to some Russians, “20 years from now, history textbooks will have a chapter entitled ‘The Period of the Restoration of the Economy After the Sochi Olympiad, 2014-2014.’” That joke appears to be an implicit commentary on a new book that officials have released entitled “The Olympic Heritage of Sochi” which talks about the future only in the most glowing terms (privetsochi.ru/blog/OlympicRu/41065.html and kubantv.ru/kultura-kuban/58705-v-fondakh-bibliotek-pojavilos-olim…).
Drink Up for Snow and a Russian Victory. Merchants are selling glasses with various slogans for various sizes of drinks. The marker for the smallest amount is “for snow and good weather,” an intermediate one is “for will to victory” and the line for a full glass reads “For a Russian Victory” (privetsochi.ru/blog/humor/40911.html).
You Know You’re a Real Sochi Resident If … Privetsochi.ru has published a list of 25 things that will instantly identify a Sochi resident from visitors. Among them is the ability to distinguish an Abkhazian from an Armenian or Georgian, a dislike of hearing anything about the Olympic, and an immediate smile if anyone talks about how terrible lines and prices are in Moscow (privetsochi.ru/blog/Flood/40909.html).
HRW Says Human Rights Abuses in Sochi are of ‘Olympian’ Proportions. In its latest report on Sochi, Human Rights Watch says that officials have abused the rights of residents, LGBTs and immigrants and that “the IOC, National Olympic Committees and corporate sponsors should urge Russia to end these abuses which violate the principles of “human dignity” and non-discrimination enshrined in the Olympic Charter, and work to prevent similar abuses by future Olympic host cities” (hrw.org/russias-olympian-abuses).
Kadyrov Says He’s Bringing 400 Chechens to Sochi. In an interview given to “Izvestiya,” Chechen head Ramzan Kadyrov says he is taking 400 of his co-ethnics to Sochi not because he has been assigned a quota but because he is such an enthusiastic fan (izvestia.ru/news/564623).
Morozov Says He’s Been Threatened Since Fleeing Russia. Valery Morozov, who fled Russia to London after talking about the demands for payoffs Russian President Vladimir Putin made to contractors, says he has been threatened with death. He told ABC News that he fears there will be an attempt on his life after the Sochi games are over (abcnews.go.com/Blotter/threats-sochi-olympics-whistleblower-drowned-blood/story?id=22270000#.Uuk7yGpyeUk.twitter).
Russian Security Efforts in Sochi Focused More on Putin Opponents than on Terrorists. The security arrangements Moscow has put in place in Moscow suggests that “Putin and his security minions are incapable of focusing their energies” on the terrorist threat and instead are targeting “gay activists, pro-democracy advocates and other agitators” instead, according to a commentary published by “USA Today” (usatoday.com/story/opinion/2014/01/28/russia-surveillance-sochi-olympics-black-widow-terrorism-column/4970863/).
CPJ Denounces Russia for Restricting News Coverage of Sochi. The Committee to Protect Journalists has released a report detailing the ways in which Russian officials have limited honest coverage of what is taking place in Sochi. What is particularly a matter of concern, CPJ said, is that to get the word out, “activists havehaving to take on the functions of journalists,” a step that sometimes leads others to dismiss what they say as reflecting their own narrow interests. The Russian authorities,” one of the authors of the report said, “have cracked down on journalists, rights defenders and civil activists in a way not seen since the break-up of the Soviet Union” (cpj.org/ru/2014/01/post-51.php and wjla.com/articles/2014/01/sochi-olympics-committee-to-protect-journalists-criticizes-russian-resrictions-on-olympic-news-cover.html).
Moscow Commentator Denounces Turkey for Anti-Russian Propaganda about Sochi. An article in Moscow’s “Geopolitika” says that Turkey has exploited the Sochi Olympics to launch a new wave of anti-Russian propaganda, something the article says the Russian authorities must do more to counter (geopolitica.ru/article/antirossiyskaya-propaganda-v-turcii-pered-olimpiadoy-2014#.UuvJCbRcUUO and natpress.ru/index.php?newsid=8678).
New Yorker Cover Shows Putin as Figure Skater Being Judged by Putin Look Alikes.The cover of the “New Yorker” this week shows Vladimir Putin in the guise of an Olympic figure skater being judged by five Putin look-alikes, an illustration that will recall the infamous behavior of the East German judges in earlier Olympiads. Barry Blitt, who drew the cover entitled “Jury of His Peers,” says that “Mr. Putin is a gift to caricaturists but to humanity in general, not so much” (washingtonpost.com/blogs/early-lead/wp/2014/01/27/sochi-2014-new-yorker-imagines-olympics-filled-with-putin/).
Poster Suggests Impoverished Russians are Sochi’s Main Sponsors. A poster now circulating online suggests that Russians impoverished by President Vladimir Putin’s extravagant spending on the Sochi Games are the main sponsors of the Olympiad, an indication of just how unhappy many Russians now are with something that Putin intended to be a celebration (facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=721105444575208&set=a.368739553145134.90000.124964357522656&type=1&theater).
EWNC Says Kozak Misled about Expansion of Sochi National Park. Russian Vice Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak’s claim last year that Moscow had expaned the area of Sochi National Park is untrue, Suren Gazaryan of the Environmental Watch on the North Caucasus says. In fact what has happened is “not so much the increase in the area of the national park as the illegal redistribution of its lands” that has reduced the amount of land protected from despoliation and increased the amount available for commercial development (ewnc.org/node/13481).
Caucasus Emirate Says Krasnodar is Part of Its Territory. The Caucasus Emirate has released a map showing the still predominantly ethnic Russian Krasnodar Kray on which Sochi is located as part of its territory, a step Russian commentators suggest is nothing more than an aspiration but that is certain to frighten many ethnic Russians in that region and more generally as an indication that the Emirate’s agents may launch a terrorist campaign there (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237153/).
Daghestan Vilayat Calls on Russians to Overthrow Putin or Face New Violence. The militant group that has claimed responsibility for the Volgograd bombings says in a new message that Russians will face attack if they do not rise up and overthrow Vladimir Putin. “Gone are the days when it was possible to destroy Muslims gratuitously,” the group says. “Today, one mujahid could destroy doens or even hundreds of people in your cities … The Kremlin gang leaders make cannot fodder of you and your children,, while they themselves accumulate billions in this war. If you do not decapitate this hydra, you will not see a quiet life” (worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2014/01/26/22452703-militants-tell-russia-rebel-against-putin-or-else?lite).
Reports Moscow Planning to Display Orcas in Sochi Spark Outrage. Unconfirmed reports that the Russian authorities plan to put orca whales on display in Sochi have sparked outrage among environmentalists who say that the criticism Moscow has received on this score “may have forced the Russians to reconsider because at last report the orcas were still in Moscow (nwcn.com/news/Orcas-at-the-Olympics-241908411.html).
Russian Bureaucrats Promote Sochi Not Out of Patriotism but to Save Their Jobs. According to a “Svobodnaya pressa” commentator, Russian officials promoting pro-Sochi propaganda are doing so not for patriotic reasons or out of an interest in sports but rather because in the event the games somehow fall short of Vladimir Putin’s expectations, many of them could lose their jobs in what would literally be “an earthquake” as far as they are concerned (svpressa.ru/sport/article/81133/).
Organized Crime Boss Said to Have Helped Putin Win Sochi Games. Craig Murray, a former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, says that Gafur Rakhimov, who is accused of being an organized crime boss and major heroin trafficker, helped Russian President Vladimir Putin convince the International Olympic Committee to award the games to Sochi (abcnews.go.com/Blotter/alleged-heroin-kingpin-helped-russia-win-olympics-sochi/story?id=22295531&singlePage=true).
Ski Resorts around Sochi Won’t Be Profitable, Russian Experts Say. A group of Russian experts meeting in Novosbirsk said that the ski resorts around Sochi are unlikely to be profitable not only because the region has ever less snow cover because of climate change but also because of transportation and other infrastructure bottlenecks (globalsib.com/19226/).
Moscow’s Sochi Effort Seen Marginalizing Russians Who Want to Get Rid of North Caucasus. A conference on “Russia in the Caucasus” organized by the RIA Novosti news agency said that Moscow’s promotion of Sochi has had the effect of marginalizing those who had earlier said that Russia should get rid of the North Caucasus but that that effort had not yet succeeded in promoting “a positive image” among Russians of the people living there (scienceport.ru/news/Eksperty-Situatsiya-v-plane-terrorizma-na-Severnom-Kavkaze-vovse-ne-tak-beznadezhna-i-ne-tak-provalna-kak-ee-risuyut-angazhirovannye-SMI-8970.html).
Astrakhan Hospitals Refuse to Treat North Caucasians. Medical facilities in the southern Russian oblast of Astrakhan are refusing to admit residents of Daghestan, Ingushetia and Chechnya, on the basis of an order from the regional health ministry. Chechen officials have already complained that this practice violates the constitutional rights of the peoples of the North Caucasus (wordyou.ru/v-rossii/v-astraxanskix-bolnicax-otkazyvayutsya-prinimat-pacientov-s-kavkaza.html).
Islamist Site Likens Putin’s Olympics to Hitler’s. Pakistan’s Islamic Jihad Union, an ally of Al Qaeda, has put out a four-minute video likening Vladimir Putin’s Sochi Olympics to those of Adolf Hitler in Berlin in 1936. It says that as a result of Putin’s actions, “an atmosphere of fear and terror” now hangs over Russia (11alive.com/news/article/319786/40/Sochi-Olympics-threatened-again).
IOC Marketing Chief Says Sochi’s Cost May ‘Scare Away’ Olympic Host Hopefuls. Gerhard Heibert, the head of marketing for the International Olympic Committee, says that the enormous amount of money that Moscow has spent on Sochi may “scare away” possible bids by cities that otherwise might have wanted to host the games in the future. He said steps must be taken to reduce the costs of hosting the games (uk.eurosport.yahoo.com/news/sochi-2014-winter-olympics-must-reduce-cost-ioc-123743098–spt.html).
Moscow Says EU Seeking to Impose ‘Alien View’ of Homosexuality on Other Countries. The Russian government says in a 153-page report on human rights in EU countries that the European Union is seeking to impose”neo-liberal values as a universal lifestyle for all other members of the the international community” (uk.eurosport.yahoo.com/news/sochi-2014-russia-says-eu-tries-impose-quot-213633426–spt.html).
Visa Problems, Terrorism and Lack of Upscale Hotels Keep Americans Away from Sochi. American tourist agencies say that the Sochi Games appear on course to attract fewer Americans than have attened such competitions over the last 20 years, a reflection of problems with visas, fears of terrorism, and a shortage of upscale hotels. One touro operator said that few are likely to go to Sochi in the future either: “I don’t think many people are going to see this Russian destination they’ve never heard of in the opening ceremonies on TV in the dead of winter and say, ‘You know, that’s where I want to go next weekend,’” he said (seattletimes.com/html/travel/2022749340_sochiolympicstourismxml.html).
Romney Says He’d Be ‘Comfortable’ Taking His Family to Sochi. 2012 Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney says that despite security threats, he would be “comfortable” taking his family to Sochi. ”There’s never been a games I know of that have been so targeted for specific threats as you’re seeing in Sochi,” he said. “At the same time, the level of security preparations appears to be at an unprecedented level. So I think people can recognize that the hard sites will be safe. The athletes will be safe, spectators when they’re in the venues will be safe. But it’s the soft places you can’t be 100% certain will be entirely safe but my guess is the Russians have done everything humanly possible to protect the games” (13wmaz.com/story/sports/2014/01/24/romney-sochi-olympics-will-be-safe-despite-security-concerns/4821889/).
WINDOW ON EURASIA: SOCHI COUNTDOWN – 2 WEEKS TO THE OLYMPIAD IN THE NORTH CAUCASUS
Note: This is my 48th 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 email@example.com Allow me to express my thanks to all those who already have. Paul Goble
Putin Promises to Do Everything Necessary for Sochi Security… President Vladimir Putin said he will do everything to provide for a secure Olympiad while trying to ensure that “the security measures taken aren’t too intrusive or visible and that they won’t put pressure on the athletes, guests and journalists.” He added that “we will do our best to ensure that these measures are efficient.” ”If we allow ourselves to show weakness and fear, display our fear, then we will be helping the terrorists to achieve their goals” and called for international cooperation against terrorism (sportsillustrated.cnn.com/-olympics/news/20140117/sochi-olympics-security-vladimir-putin.ap/).
… Denies Any Corruption in Sochi and Says Price Increases Reflected Improvements … President Vladimir Putin said that he has not seen any “manifestation of corruption” in the preparation for the games and that the only prices that have risen from their original estimates were those where improvements were made along the way (http://www.privetsochi.ru/blog/OlympicRu/40681.html and vesti-sochi.tv/olimpiada/22364-prichiny-udorozhanija-olimpijskoj-strojki-svjazany-s-kachestvom-jekspertizy-i-dejstvijami-podrjadchikov).
… Argues Sochi Games Not about Him but About Russia’s Recovery from 1991 …President Vladimir Putin said that the Sochi Olympics are not “about [his] personal ambitions.” The competition is instead “about the direct and concentrated interest of the state and our people” who “after the collapse of the Soviet Union, after the tough and bloody events in the Caucasus” were in “a pitiful and pessimistic state. We need to shake that off. We need to understand and to feel that we can ulfill large tasks.” The Sochi Olympics are thus “a triumph of Russia” (sportsillustrated.cnn.com/-olympics/news/20140117/sochi-olympics-security-vladimir-putin.ap/ and http://blogsochi.ru/content/vladimir-putin-schitaet-fakt-provedeniya-olimpiady-v-sochi-triumfom-rossii).
… Says Gays Will Be Welcome But Must ‘Leave Children in Peace’ … President Vladiimir Putin said gay athletes and fans will be welcome and can be “at ease” in Sochi as long as they “leave children in peace, please.” He also said in his ABC interview that “acts of protest and acts of propaganda are somewhat different things” and that those criticizing Russia for its laws should realize that many in their own countries agree with Moscow’s position. He suggested that in some American states homosexuality was still a crime, something his interviewer pointed out is not the case. And he said he had “no reaction” about US President Barack Obama’s decision to include openly gay people in the US delegation. At the same time, the Russian president may have lost as much as he gained by his statements because he lumped homosexuality and pedophilia in the same category (therainbowtimesmass.com/2014/01/20/sochi-2014-putin-adds-fuel-controversy/ andsports.nationalpost.com/2014/01/17/sochi-2014-one-can-feel-relaxed-and-at-ease-but-please-leave-the-children-in-peace-russias-vladimir-putin-says-of-propaganda-law/).
… Not Worried about Any Boycott or Empty Seats … President Vladimir Putin said that he does not think anyone believes in a boycott and that he is therefore not concerned there will be one. He also said he is sure that he will be able to fill all the seats at Sochi even if not all the tickets are sold. “Why should places go empty?” Putin asked rhetorically (ria.ru/sochi2014_around_games/20140119/990051730.html).
… Urges Sochi Volunteers to Display Humor and Patience … At a meeting with Russian volunteer workers in Sochi, President Vladimir Putin called on them to display “humor, patience, professionalism and perseverance” because “these emotions form the very atmosphere of the games” (blogsochi.ru/content/vladimir-putin-vstretilsya-s-volonterami-predstoyashchei-olimpiady-v-sochi).
… And Adds He Won’t Make a Bet about the Games with Obama. President Vladimir Putin said that he and US President Barack Obama will not be making any bets over the outcome of the games. “We never make bets like that,” he said (olympictalk.nbcsports.com/2014/01/19/vladimir-putin-barack-obama-olympic-bets-sochi/).
Medvedev Says Security Threats to Sochi No Greater than at Other Olympiads.Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev says that “threat at the Sochi Olympiad are no greater than they have been at Olympic Games in other places.” He adds that Russian officials are “absolutely certain that we will be able to defend all sportsmen … and we are tryingto conduc the Olympic Games in a very good way.” Medvedev says that Russia has a great deal of experience in fighting terrorism and that for the games it is using not only that background but is cooperating “with our partners,” including the Americans . “We inite everyone to watch the Games and those who hve purchased a ticket to come to Russia as see everything in person” (itar-tass.com/politika/906655).
Email Threats to Olympic Countries Dismissed as Hoax. IOC officials said that emails sent to at least five European countries threatening them with violence if they take part in the Sochi Olympics were a hoax sent by someone outside of Russia who has sent similar messages before. Nonetheless, various commentators suggested that even if these messages were a hoax, they have put many people on edge and may cut attendance at the Sochi Olympiad (uk.eurosport.yahoo.com/news/sochi-2014-hungary-olympic-committee-gets-sochi-terrorist-091847624–spt.html, kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237058/, and bigstory.ap.org/article/hungary-nations-get-threat-about-sochi-attacks).
Russian Officials Search for ‘Black Widow’ Terrorists in Sochi. Russian security officials said they were searching for three or four female Islamist terrorists who may be operating in Sochi. There were discrepancies in Russian reporting about how many such “black widows” may be there, how long they have been operating, and whether the photographs the Russian officials released were new and accurate (blogsochi.ru/content/terroristka-smertnitsa-razyskivaetsya-v-olimpiiskom-sochi ,blogsochi.ru/content/ob-otbytii-iz-dagestana-terroristki-smertnitsy-v-gorod-sochi,blogsochi.ru/content/v-sochi-est-veroyatnost-nakhozhdeniya-terroristki-smertnitsy andkavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237040/).
Obama Offers Putin Assistance for Sochi Security. US President Barack Obama in a telephone call offered Russian President Vladimir Putin American assistance to promote security at Sochi. US and Russian officials discussed what that aid might look like but Moscow has not yet indicated that it is prepared to accept any such assistance beyond intelligence sharing. Many US officials have expressed skepticism that Moscow would ever agree to any on-the-ground aid. Several US congressmen have expressed equal skepticism about how much information Moscow is prepared to share with the West on terrorism and Sochi (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237041/, kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237039/,nytimes.com/2014/01/22/world/europe/us-offers-russia-high-tech-aid-to-thwart-sochi-terror.html, kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/236907/, and mobile.nytimes.com/2014/01/20/world/europe/us-congressmen-raise-concerns-about-security-at-sochi-olympics.html?emc=edit_tnt_20140120&tntemail0=y&_r=0&referrer=).
US to Send Two Ships to Black Sea for Sochi Evacuation in the Event of Need. The US Department of Defense says that Washington is sending two navy ships to a location in the Black Sea near Sochi so that they would be available to evacuate Americans in the event of a terrorist attack or other emergency (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/236973/,utro.ru/articles/2014/01/21/1169868.shtml and theguardian.com/world/2014/jan/20/us-plans-evacuation-sochi-olympics-terror-attack).
US Participation at Sochi Would Be Threatened by Combination of Three Things, Former NSC Aide Says. Juan Zarate, a former US deputy national security advisor for combating terrorism who now serves as senior advisor at the CSIS in Washington, says that no one wants to see Olympic disrupted and that only a combination of three conditions would lead the US to consider pulling out: “a very serious, credible set of threats directed at U.S. athletes or at venues that U.S. athletes would be attending, combined with a sense that the Russians aren’t sharing enough information about what’s being done to counter it and a sense that we have an inability to counter it ourselves.” In that event “and so if there’s a real sense of serious risk to our athletes that is imminent, that is material, and that can’t be countered, then you would start to see a discussion in the Situation Room around what is to be done” (csis.org/files/attachments/142101_TS_csis-sochi.pdf).
Medvedev Says He has ‘No Data’ about Sochi Corruption. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev says that he has no information about corruption in Sochi, adding that one can assess whether there is any onlyif evidence is presented. He says that he does not think there will be any indication of massive corruption, although he said there may have been some problems. On another subject, he indicates that the total cost of the Sochi Games is close to 56 billion US dollars, 50 billion for infrastructure and six billion more for the Games themselves. Those figures are higher than the ones Russian President Vladimir Putin has been citing (itar-tass.com/politika/906623).
Washington Post Says IOC Put Athletes and Fans at Risk by Awarding Games to Sochi. Sally Jenkins, a sports columnist for “The Washington Post” says that the IOC “jeopardized the safety of athletes and fans in awarding the Games to Putin’s Russia.” The Sochi Games, she continues, are “already a catastrophe and if [they] become a tragedy too, it will be because the IOC has become the tool of ‘colossal authoritarian branding,’ to borrow a phrase from Russia scholar Leon Aron. The choice is an ugly one: Removing the Games at this late date would devastate Russians who have invested national self-worth in them, and the athletes who have trained for them. Therefore the only option is to watch Sochi become a contest for prestige between two warring parties: a corrupt strongman who wants to flex his political authority, and the murderous jihadists who have vowed to strike in Sochi. Why should the Olympics lend its prestige to either? But that’s exactly what’s happening” (washingtonpost.com/sports/olympics/sochi-2014-ioc-jeopardized-safety-of-athletes-and-fans-in-awarding-games-to-putins-russia/2014/01/22/3c5427a8-83aa-11e3-8099-9181471f7aaf_print.html).
Sochi Receiving ‘Harsher’ Judgments than Putin Expected, NY Times Says. Steven Lee Myers of “The New York Times” says that “if, as Putin has said, hosting the Olympics is ajudgment on Russia, then so far the judgment has been a harsher one than he expected” (nytimes.com/2014/01/26/magazine/putins-olympic-fever-dream.html?_r=1).
Most Countries Participating in Sochi Relying on Russia for Security But Some are Taking Steps Themselves. Most of the countries sending teams to Sochi say they are worried about security but are relying on Russian officials to take care of the situation. A few, however, are developing their own security plans or hiring special security contractors,, including the US and the United Kingdom (themoscowtimes.com/sochi2014/Olympic-Teams-Prepare-for-Possible-Security-Crisis-in-Sochi.html).
German Olympic Uniforms Called ‘Silent Protest’ Against Moscow’s Anti-LGBT Law. German competitors at Sochi will wear rainbow-colored uniforms, something that many commentators are describing as “a silent protest” against Russian anti-gay legislation especially since many German athletes have openly condemned the Russian law (ftw.usatoday.com/2013/10/german-olympians-will-wear-rainbow-colored-uniforms-in-sochi/).
IOC Says Circassian Culture to be Part of Sochi Festivities. In an email to Circassian organizations, te IO says that “elements of Circassian culture are already part of Sochi’s 2014 cultural festival.” Circassian activists welcome that if it is true but note that Moscow has yet to talk about these elements or to indicate just how they will be incorporated in the Olympic celebration (huffingtonpost.com/merissa-khurma/the-sochi-connection_b_4046063.html).
United Russia Deputy Comes Close to Acknowledging Genocide, Admits Most Circassians Oppose Sochi Games. In a wide-ranging interview in which he praised the Circassians for their unique ability to resist Russia’s military advance in the Caucasus and noted their continuing problems with Moscow, Adalbi Shkhagohev, a United Russia deputy in the Russian State Duma, said that he did not want to use the word “genocide” to describe “the human and historical tragedy” that happened in 1864 because of current considerations. But his comments leave no doubt that he puts the blame for the ethnically specific tragedy of tsarist Russian forces. He also acknowledged that the majority of Circassians oppose staging the Olympiad on the site of that tragedy although he said he was not among their number (kavpolit.com/ya-ne-otnoshu-sebya-k-tem-kto-schitaet-chto-olimpiadu-provodit-ne-nuzhno/#comment-359463 ).
Circassians Made Great Progress as a Nation Last Year, Analyst Says. Despite Russian policies “infected by imperialism and colonialism,” the Circassians made progress during 2013 in coming together as a people and advancing their interests, according to Tamerlan Urusov, a legal specialist.They have not yet won the war, he continued, but they did win at least some of the battles and are now better positioned to move forward after Sochi (echo.msk.ru/blog/civilt/1240740-echo/).
Circassians Attracting More Western Media Attention. Although Circassian organizations did not succeed in getting any country to boycott the games, they have been receiving far more attention from the Western media in recent weeks, with ever more journalists discussing the genocide and Russia’s unwillingness to face up to its history (businessinsider.com/photos-of-sochi-russias-forgotten-circassian-people-2014-1 ,yahoo.com/photos/sochi-s-indigenous-people-1390329883-slideshow/,cnn.com/2014/01/23/opinion/martin-olympics-circassians/index.html?hpt=op_t1 andblogs.reuters.com/photographers-blog/2014/01/21/searching-for-circassians/).
German Greens Leader Urges World Not to Forget What Happened to Circassians at Sochi. Cem Ozdemir, the leader of the Greens faction in the German Bundestag, says that the international community must not allow the euphoria of Olympic competition to cause them to forget the horrific crimes inflicted by Russian authorities on the Circassian nation there in 1864 (aheku.org/news/diaspora/5066 ).
Sochi Officials Launch Campaign to Kill Homeless Animals. Concerned that homeless animals will be a problem for visitors and having let a 2.5 million ruble (90,000 US dollar) contract for their removal, Sochi officials have begun shooting homeless dogs and cats in the streets. Animal rights activists and ordinary people are horrified and have launched a counter-effort to adopt or to find at least temporary homes for these unfortunates. What makes this situation especially appalling is that the Sochi city government had earlier promised to build a shelter for animals: that has not happened (privetsochi.ru/blog/dogs/40731.html and etp-micex.ru/auction/catalog/view/auctionId/277283/backurl/L2F1Y3Rpb24vY2F0YWxvZy9hbGw5NC8jL3NlYXJjaC8lMjVEMSUyNTgxJTI1RDAlMjVCRSUyNUQxJTI1ODclMjVEMCUyNUI4L3BhZ2UvNC8=/).
Olympic Torch Travails Continue. The Sochi Olympic torch continued its passage with all the same problems it has had in the past, but this week, people along the path were especially disturbed by the extent to which they were discommoded by official behavior and security arrangements in Volgograd, by the detention of a leading television journalist in Taganrog, by the arrest of opposition figures in Rostov before the torch passed, and by the detention of a gay activist who tried to hold up a rainbow pride flag (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/236985/,kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/236911/, kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237066/, kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237013/, kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/236950/, buzzfeed.com/rachelzarrell/russian-lgbt-activist-detained-after-unfurling-pride-flag, olympictalk.nbcsports.com/2014/01/18/gay-protester-sochi-olympic-torch-relay-russia/, kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/236915/ and kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/236852/).
Kozak Says Almost Everything is Ready But Photographs Show Otherwise. Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak says that 11 of the 13 Olympic venues is ready, with the other two awaiting certification, but he did not say that Fisht Stadium where the opening ceremony is to slated to be held is in fact near completion. Photographs posted online, however, show that much of the infrastructure is still incomplete or so badly installed that it is likely to create problems even before the end of the competitions (themoscowtimes.com/sochi2014/Not-a-Single-Complaint-About-Sochi-Preparations.html, privetsochi.ru/blog/sitiproblem/40614.html,privetsochi.ru/blog/Flood/40609.html, privetsochi.ru/blog/auto_sochi/40587.html,blogsochi.ru/content/tsentr-sochi-za-16-dnei-do%E2%80%A6,blogsochi.ru/content/pozemnyi-perekhod-u-tts-%C2%ABnovyi-vek%C2%BB-v-adlere and blogsochi.ru/content/predolimpiiskii-sochi).
HRW Says Moscow Will Launch Even Harsher Crackdown after Sochi. As horrific as Moscow’s moves against the civil and human rights of its people in the run-up to Sochi, Human Rights Watch’s Tatyana Lokshina says, her organization expects the crackdown to intensify after international attention turns away from Russia at the conclusion of the games. She expressed particular concern about theNorth Caucasus where Moscow, having failed to pacify the situation so far, is likely to adopt even more violent and punitive measures (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237068/).
Moscow Bank Restructuring of Sochi Debt. Russia’s Vneshekonombank is restructuring more than half of the debt incurred by companies involved in Sochi construction, extending the loan period and thus reducing the burden on these institutions. The owners of many of them had been complaining and this restructuring should keep them quiet until after the games when the Russian authorities may either be forced to forgive much of the debt or otherwise allow the companies who were involved to escape full repayment for what arebecoming non-performing loans (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237054/).
Sochi Organizing Committee Publishes Rules for Olympic Fans. The Sochi 2014 Olympic Organizing Committee has posted online a list of rules that fans must follow while at the games. Most are quite ordinary for major events, but some are intended to stifle any possibility of dissent. Officials say that violators will be removed from the venue and in severe cases stripped of their fan passports and thus of the possibility of attending any future events at Sochi (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237044/).
Moscow Wants to Extend Ban on Liquids on Planes Past Olympiad. In an indication that many of the rules Moscow has imposed in advance of the games may continue well after it, the Russian transportation ministry as that it wants to extend the unpopular ban on passemgers carrying any liquids, including medicines, at least until April 1 (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/236919/).
Gref Seeks a Las Vega Future for Sochi. German Gref, head of Moscow’s Sberbank, is pushing to develop casinos and other gambling facilities in the southern Russian city as a way to attract visitors and thus help those who have invested in Sochi recoup their money and make a profit. Many Russians are asking whose “pocket” Gref is in or most worried about (news.mail.ru/economics/16607311/).
Suffering of Sochi Residents Epitomized by Tragedy of One Older Woman. Many residents of Sochi have suffered during the construction of Olympic facilities, but perhaps none has done so more that Nadezhda Kukharenko, an older woman who has had to choose to give up heat in order to be able to buy food and has not been able to get to stores because of her infirmity and the collapse of public transit in her part of the city. Her case, portrayed on a video clip, has attracted attention from around Russia. She is, as the video says, truly “outside the games” (blogsochi.ru/content/babushka-vne-igr).
Kozak’s Claims on Air Quality Belied by Official Russian Statistics. Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak’s claims that Olympic construction had improved air quality in Sochi by a factor of two are false as will be clear to anyone who looks around. But they are also undercut by official Russian government statistics which show that air quality in the Olympic city has in fact deteriorated and in some cases now represents a clear threat to public health (blogsochi.ru/content/sochi-2014-mif-ob-%C2%ABochishchennom%C2%BB-olimpiiskom-vozdukhe ).
Sochi isn’t Ready for Visitors, Valov Says. Aleksandr Valov, the editor of Blogsochi.ru, says that anyone who walks through Sochi will see that official claims of readiness of the games are overstated. Many facilities are either unfinished or slapped together in a sloppy and unsafe way, roads and sidewalks are either incomplete or already disintegrating because they were not built properly, and piles of trash have been left in public places without any sign that they are going to be hauled away in the two weeks left before opening ceremonies (blogsochi.ru/content/olimpiada-cherez-zadnitsu ).
Sochi Doesn’t Have Local or Self-Administration, Residents Complain. Sochi does not have “local government” or “self-administration” despite what the Russian Constitution promises. Instead, they insist, it is run from the outside without their interests ever being taken into accout (blogsochi.ru/content/sochinskoe-ne-mestnoe-ne-samoupravlenie-0).
Moscow’s Spending on Power Backups for Games Infuriates Sochi Residents Living without Power. Russian officials say they are spending 20 million US dollars to provide back up power supplies in case the power grid fails during the games. Residents are outraged because these same officials have done nothing to keep the power on regularly in their neighborhoods. Most have suffered some power outages over the last two years, and many have not had power, heat or water for long periods (blogsochi.ru/content/energiya-olimpiady-polmilliarda-rublei-v-topku).
Georgia to Send Delegation to Sochi But Continues Criticism of Moscow on Abkhazia. Georgia announced its plans to send a delegation of 19 to the Sochi Olympiad, but Tbilisi officials took the occasion to denounced the latest illegal move of the border between Russia and Georgia 11 kilometers deeper into Georgian territory and said that Georgian sovereignty represented a red line that it was not prepared to cross in order to improve relations with Moscow (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237008/ and kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/236939/).
Lavrov ‘Values’ Tbilisi’s Offer of Security Assistance but Condemns Its Refusal to Recognize Post-2008 ‘Realities.’ Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says that Moscow “values” Georgia’s offer of security assistance for Sochi but adds that Georgia’s continuing refusal to recognize “the realities” that emerged after August 2008 “constrains” the improvement of relations (civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=26877).
Investigators Call for BlogSochi Editor to Appear January 27. Angry at Aleksandr Valov’s reporting about official malfeasance, government investigators in Sochi have ordered the BlogSochi editor to appear before them on January 27. They say he is being questioned about possible criminal charges. Whether that is true or not, the timing of this notice suggests it is intended as an act of intimidation designed to keep him from working as more attention turns to the Olympic city (blogsochi.ru/content/glavred-saita-aleksandr-valov-vyzvan-v-sledstvennyi-komitet-v-krasnodar-na-280114-goda ).
Footbridge May Not Be Save But It’s Not Our Problem, City Officials Say. In November, BlogSochi.ru pointed out that a footbridge many visitors to the city may use is unsafe because it has been improperly constructed. Now officials have responded with an official letter saying that the bridge may not be safe but that they are not responsible for ensuring that it is (blogsochi.ru/content/%C2%ABvykhodit-za-predely-polnomochii-gosudarstvennogo-stroitelnogo-nadzora%C2%BB).
Not All Sochi Signs are Properly Transliterated into English. Many Russians involved in making road signs for Sochi clearly do not know English and thus are transliterating the Cyrillic alphabet into Latin script incorrectly. One sign pointing to an Olympic venue, for example, renders Krasnaya Polyana in Russian as Krasnaya lolyana in English (privetsochi.ru/blog/bred_sochi/40778.html).
Sochi Contractors Put Obstacles on Tacticle Paths for Those with Sight Problems. More than any other Russian city although far less than many non-Russian ones, Sochi has installed facilities for handicapped people in preparation for the Paralympics which follow the Olympiad. One of the biggest efforts has been to put down tacticle strips to guide those who are blind or have difficulty seeing. Unfortunately, some Sochi contractors have shown no respect for these strips, scraping them off or even putting physical obstacles on them which would block anyone using them to guide his or her way (privetsochi.ru/blog/bred_sochi/40823.html).
Yarst Now Reporting for URA.ru. Nikolay Yarst, an embattled Sochi journalist, has prepared a report on conditions in Sochi for the URA.ru news agency, detailing what visitors to the city can expect and warning them against doing certain things. He says that visitors should know that “local residents for a long time have been waiting not for the Olympics but for the time when they will be able to return to their accustomed way of life and they hope that bureaucrats will fulill their promises” and actually bring gas and electricity to their houses. Yarst’s next court date is January 29 (blogsochi.ru/content/%C2%ABvidish-vse-eto-i-ponimaesh-gostyam-zdes-ne-rady%C2%BB and blogsochi.ru/content/v-krasnodarskom-krae-sledstvie-po-delu-zhurnalista-nikolaya-yarsta-prodleno-do-29-yanvarya).
Sochi’s Toiletgate Scandal. A BBC journalist photographed a strange arrangement in a Sochi facility: two toilets in a single stall. His pictures, which he almost immediately had to deny having created by photoshop, hve gone viral and sparked comments like “while it might be nice to get to know your competitors a little better, this is surely far too cosy to catch on and has already been attacked as a waste of money. Oops” (metro.co.uk/2014/01/21/what-a-waste-of-money-why-are-there-two-toilets-in-one-cubicle-at-sochi-2014-4270988/).
Moscow is ‘Prepared for Beslan But Not Smaller-Scale Attacks.’ Mark Galleoti, an NYU, specialist on Russian crime and security, says that Russian officials in Sochi “are prepared for Beslan but not a smaller-scale attack.” His words echo those of Andrey Soldatov, Russia’s leading independent expert on that country’s intelligence services, who says that Moscow has transformed Sochi “into a fortress” because officials have “confused control with security.” To counter terrorism, they should be focusing on intelligence instead. No matter how many troops are on the ground, he suggests, terrorists can find a way around them (washingtonpost.com/world/europe/russian-olympic-terrorist-search-sets-nerves-jangling-despite-putin-assurances-of-safety/2014/01/21/c0bd2a1a-82cb-11e3-bbe5-6a2a3141e3a9_story.html).
Ukrainian Violence Linked to Sochi Games. Jiri and Leni Valenta, two American specialists on foreign affairs, says that “linkages exist between the ongoing peaceful-turned violent demonstration in Ukraine and Chechen threats to the Olympics.” At the very least, concerns about Sochi security have distracted the attention of many from what is going on in Ukraine and thus opened the way for the crackdown there (linkedin.com/groups/UKRAINE-TURNS-VIOLENT-AMIDST-TERRORIST-4473529.S.5831041383892267008?view=&gid=4473529&type=member&item=5831041383892267008&trk=eml-anet_dig-b_nd-pst_ttle-cn).
In Advance of Sochi, Adygeya Sets Up Special Security Group. The police in the Republic of Adygeya have established a special group to ensure law and order in the mountainous portions of that Circassian republic. Because the terrain is so rough, the group will be using helicopters and drones to monitor the situation there (vestikavkaza.ru/news/V-Adygee-zarabotala-gornaya-politsiya.html).
WINDOW ON EURASIA: SOCHI COUNTDOWN – 3 WEEKS TO THE OLYMPIAD IN THE NORTH CAUCASUS
Note: This is my 47th 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 firstname.lastname@example.org Allow me to express my thanks to all those who already have. Paul Goble
Is Putin Reprising His KGB Role at the 1980 Moscow Games? According to Moscow commentator Vladimir Abarinov, it is said that in 1980 Vladimir Putin, then a senior lieutenant in the KGB, played a role in providing security for the Moscow Olympiad. And Abarinov conclude that the Russian president is insisting on many of the security arrangements for Sochi on the basis of his experience then. If so, that could lead the organs now to place a disproportionate stress on physical security rather than on the sharing of information and possibly lead to provocations against groups with which the Kremlin is at odds. That is because, the Grani commentator continues, if one feels oneself in a fortress under siege, one’s “first duty is to find an internal enemy” (grani.ru/opinion/abarinov/m.223213.html).
Putin Will Do Whatever’s Necessary, From Repressions to Concessions, to Make Sochi a Success, Commentator Says. Tatyana Stanovaya, a senior analyst at the Moscow Center for Political Technology, says that Vladimir Putin will do whatever he has to in order to ensure that the Sochi Games are a success, ranging from greater repression to new concessions to the opposition (politcom.ru/17007.html).
US State Department Urges Americans Visiting Sochi to Be ‘Vigilant.’ Those who go to the Sochi games should be vigilant, the US Department of State says, because of the possibility of territory attacks in the region. While there is no evidence that US citizens are being targeted for attack, the State Department says, Americans travelling to Sochi should be aware of the risk and also of the presence of security forces around them. They should also be aware, the warning continued, that medical care may be of a lower standard than they are accustomed to (http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/pa/pa_6258.html and kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/236483/).
CDC Warns American Visitors to Sochi of Health Risks, Medical Shortcomings. The Center for Disease Control has issued a warning to Americans planning to go to the Sochi Olympiad about the health risks they may face there and about problems with medical care in the Russian Federation. Among the advice the CDC gives is that any American having sex there should wear a condom (vesti-sochi.tv/olimpiada/22269-amerikancam-sovetujut-ostorozhno-perehodit-sochinskie-dorogi-i-ne-chihat-na-urorte-v-ruku).
Almost a Third of Sochi Tickets Remain Unsold. In an indication that there may be empty seats at Sochi because of concerns about security or other issues, 30 percent of the tickets for the Olympics remain unsold, according to Russin officials. Tickets are available for almost all events and higher-end tickets for the opening and closing ceremonies remain available as well. In contrast, the 2012 London Games sold out early, and at the last winter games in Vancouver, all but 110,000 of 1.5 million were sold. Another indication of weak sales and even weaker attendance is the increasingly large resale market where those who bought tickets earlier either because they planned to go or hoped to profit from resale (en.rsport.ru/olympics/20140116/715554374.html and businessweek.com/articles/2014-01-15/sochi-olympics-ticket-sales-are-on-a-downhill-slope).
Medvedev Says ‘Practically All’ Olympic Objects are Ready and Have Been Tested. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev says that “practically all objects are ready and have passed a serious checking … In general and on the whole, everything is working” (ria.ru/sochi2014/20140116/989537809.html).
Despite Moscow’s Claims, All is Not Ready for Opening of Games. The Russian government and its spokesmen routinely insist that everything is ready for the games, but photographs of Sochi facilities posted online, the hiring of 2000 workers from outside at the last minute, wages for Olympic sites now 50 percent higher than the city average, and the use of Soviet-style “forced voluntary” labor underscores that things are not yet completely ready. What is especially striking is that photographs released by officials to show completion in fact show just the opposite (blogsochi.ru/content/fotografii-sochi-s-bespilotnika,vk.com/blogsochi_ru?w=wall-5042747_42375, blogsochi.ru/content/olimpiiskie-obekty-postroyat-bezrabotnye-metallurgi-iz-zlatousta, svpressa.ru/society/article/80344/?vkb,privetsochi.ru/blog/komunalka/40332.html, sochinskie-novosti.com/%D0%BA%D0%B0%D0%BD%D0%B8%D0%BA%D1%83%D0%BB%D1%8B-%D1%81%D1%82%D1%80%D0%BE%D0%B3%D0%BE%D0%B3%D0%BE-%D1%80%D0%B5%D0%B6%D0%B8%D0%BC%D0%B0/, blogsochi.ru/content/olimpiiskaya-rabota-tsenitsya-v-sochi-v-poltora-raza-vyshe andhttp://blogsochi.ru/content/olimpiiskaya-butaforiya-chast-%E2%84%962).
Thirty Thousand Gastarbeiters Still in Sochi, Kozak Acknowledges. Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak who is overseeing the Sochi Olympics for Moscow says that there are still 30,000 gastarbeiters in Sochi despite his earlier pledges to have all of them out first in November and then December. Most of them are working on Olympic infrastructure projects that are still not completed (sochinskie-novosti.com/%D1%83%D0%BA%D0%BB%D0%BE%D0%BD-%D0%B2-%D0%BF%D1%80%D0%B0%D0%B2%D0%BE/).
Moscow Puts Sochi Protest Site Seven Miles from Nearest Olympic Venue. After Russian President Vladimir Putin promised to allow demonstrations in Sochi if the FSB and local authorities approved, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak who is overseeing the Sochi Olympics for Moscow announced that “the protest zone” would be located in Khost, seven miles or 12 kilometers from Olympic sites. The site is located on a street named for the 50thAnniversary of the USSR. Kozak said that “at the park in Khosta, people will be able freely to express their opinions without violating the rights of other citizens or the Olympic charter” (washingtonpost.com/world/europe/sochi-protest-zone-set-far-from-olympics-arenas/2014/01/10/188003c4-79ff-11e3-a647-a19deaf575b3_story.html).
Kozak Promises All Wage Arrears in Sochi Will Be Eliminated by January 14. Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak who is overseeing the Sochi Olympics for Moscow said that he will ensure that all Sochi workers who are owed wages will be fully paid by January 14. At the same time, the local authorities set up a hot line for workers to complain about this, although the issue has been a lively one for more than a year (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/236444/ andsochiadm.ru/press-sluzhba/25810/).
Kozak Says Sochi Air Now Twice as Clean as It Was but Photos Show Otherwise. Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak who is overseeing the Sochi Olympics for Moscow said that the air in Sochi is now twice as clean as it was before Olympic construction began, but local residents and the photographs they have posted online suggest otherwise (privetsochi.ru/blog/bred_sochi/40305.html).
Kozak Says Olympics Cost Seven Billion US Dollars and No Funds Were Misused.Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak who is overseeing the Sochi Olympics for Moscow said that the Sochi Olympics had cost just seven billion US dollars, far less than all outside experts have said but the figure Vladimir Putin is apparently insisting on. In addition, he said that no money had been corruptly diverted. Kozak thus added his support to the head of Russian Railways who wants to sue IOC member Gian-Franco Kasper for saying the Sochi Games cost far more and did so in part because of corruption (sochi2014.rsport.ru/sochi2014/20140116/715540385.html andprivetsochi.ru/blog/OlympicRu/40573.html).
Foreign Intelligence Agencies Offering to Help in Sochi Security Seen Threatening Russia. That the Russian government has not taken the proper steps to ensure security at Sochi is beyond question, according to one Russian blogger, but that does not mean that Russians should not question the agendas of the several foreign intelligence services that will be sending their agents to Sochi. The blogger asks whether they will really help with security or alternatively promote protests and undermine the Russian authorities (raznesi.info/blog/post/11336).
Going to Sochi Games Will Cost a Russian Couple at Least 23,600 Rubles. A Russian couple planning to go to the Sochi Games will have to count on spending 23,600 rubles (760 US dollars) for train fare from Moscow, low-end hotel rooms and food, and tickets for the least popular events, according to one journalist’s calculation. That amount is roughly equal to an average Russian monthly salary. Those who want to fly, stay at high-end hotels, and attend the opening or closing ceremonies or the most popular events can expect to spend far more (svpressa.ru/sport/article/80622/).
Moscow Pulling Security Personnel from Across Russia for Sochi Games. Moscow is sending troops from as far away as Siberia and the Russian Far East to provide security at Sochi, at least in principle leaving some of these regions at greater risk of a terrorist attack (siberiantimes.com/other/others/news/siberia-joins-national-effort-to-make-the-sochi-olympics-safe-and-successful/).
1300 Medical Workers from Across Russia Will be in Sochi for Games. Possibly at least partially in response to Western suggestions, including one by the US Department of State, that medical care in Sochi is likely to be Spartan, Russian officials have announced that they are sending 1300 medical workers from Moscow, Tataarstan and the Kuban and that 350 of them have already received special training (http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/236720/).
Tbilisi Again Offers to Help Russia with Sochi Security. Georgian Prime Minister Irakly Garbiashvili said that his government is ready to provide assistance to Russia in the struggle against terrorism during the Sochi Olympiad. If Russia agrees, “we will only be glad” to do so, he said (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/236717/).
Bulgarian Leaders Will Attend Sochi Opening Ceremony. Although many world leaders are staying away from Sochi for scheduling or political reasons, the president and prime minister of Bulgaria, the only country that asked to join the USSR twice and was refused, have announced that they will attend the opening ceremony in Sochi (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/236714/).
Adler Railroad Station Evacuated a Second Time. Although officials have refused to say what happened, the railway station at Adler has been evacuated twice in the last week, once on January 11 and a second time on January 12, as photographs of people standing outside the station appear to confirm (blogsochi.ru/content/v-sochi-evakuirovali-lyudei-s-zhd-vokzala-adler and privetsochi.ru/blog/bred_sochi/40564.html).
Kirov Residents Say Torch Running Past ‘Carrying with It Our Schools, Hospital and Pensions.’ When the Olympic torch passed through Kirov, the police harassed local opposition figures, but some of those standing along the route carried signs saying that the Sochi torch represented the one trillion rubles Moscow has taken out of the pockets of Russians and thus, “running past us are the schools, hospitals and pensions” Russians won’t get (svoboda.org/content/article/25227956.html).
Olympic Torch Leads to ‘Theater of the Absurd” in Saratov. Although Saratov residents were not unhappy that officials cleaned up the city in advance of the passing of the Olympic torch, they were upset by the pressure those same officials put on children and adults to show up alongside the site and the fact that the trash that had disappeared returned after the torch had passed (echo.msk.ru/blog/mikhail_shapovalov/1236064-echo/,video.sarbc.ru/video/3905.html and mcall.com/opinion/mc-russia-olympics-web-20140114,0,6873307.story).
Penza Officials Pull Out All the Stops and an Adult Star to Boost Audience for Torch. Not only did officials in Penza cover a broken down building along the route with canvas showing a newer and better “Potemkin” building, but they very publically invited a woman who has appeared in Russian men’s magazines to the event in the hopes of attracting more people to the route. But th effort largely failed and residents complained about what the officials were doing (https://vk.com/blogsochi_ru?z=photo-5042747_319571214%2Fwall-5042747_42359,
tvrain.ru/articles/fakelonosnye_derevni_kak_prjachut_rossiju_dlja_estafety_olimpijskogo_ognja-360320/ and leftpenza.ru/news/penzency_protestovali_protiv_olimpiady/2014-01-10-1169).
Olympic Torch Route Shortened for Security in North Caucasus. Because of security concerns, Olympic officials have announced that they have reduced the length of the route the Olympic torch will travel and the number of bearers who will carry it in Daghestan and North Osetia (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/236679/ and kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/236739/).
Vandals Destroy Byzantine Church Ruins near Sochi. As yet unidentified fortune hunters have destroyed much of the ruins of a ninth century Byzantine church near Sochi (http://9tv.ru/news/item/45079).
Sochi is ‘Not a Concentration Camp Of Course, But …’ The influx of security officers from across Russia is now so large that residents in Sochi are saying that their city isn’t a concentration camp but it is on the way to becoming one. That reflection is especially bitter now, they say, because some of the siloviki coming in are behaving badly, including appearing in public drunk and disorderly (privetsochi.ru/blog/sochi2014/40584.html).
Sochi Countdown Clock Unexpectedly Stops Three Weeks Before Opening Ceremony. There has not been any official explanation, but the Olympiad countdown clock in the center of Sochi has stopped working 22 days before the competition is scheduled to open (sochinskie-novosti.com/2014/01/16/).
‘Sochi 2014’ Playwright Says Russians told Her ‘There are No Gays in Russia.’ Tess Berry-Hart, who wrote “Sochi 2014” about the travails of LGBTs in Russia, says that Russians friends told her as she prepared that there were no gay people in Russia or they were confined to St. Petersburg. Ultimately, however, mutual friends opened the way for the conversations that became the basis for her London play (howlround.com/sochi-2014-the-making-of).
Moscow has Time to Acknowledge Its ‘Bloody History’ in the Caucasus, Canadian Historian Says. Carolyn Harris, a historian at the University of Toronto, says that despite the attention the international community has given to problems in Sochi, “President Vladimir Putin’s decision to downplay Sochi’s bloody history within the context of the Olympics has received less attention.” But “with the Opening Ceremonies a few weeks away, there is still time for the Olympics to serve as an opportunity for Russia to acknowledge its violent history in the region” (ottawacitizen.com/life/Sochi+bloody+history/9387206/story.html).
Sochi Officials Beginning ‘Mass Killing’ of Homeless Animals. Despite expression of outrage by animal rights groups in Russia and abroad and unkept promises by Russian officials that they would build a pound to house animals rather than kill them, these officials have launched what defenders of the animals say is “the mass cleansing” of Sochi from homeless animals. These activists are appealing for support so that they can get the dogs and cats off the street and prevent their euthanization (privetsochi.ru/blog/helpanimals/40496.html).
Russian Courts Reject LGBT Group’s Request for Permission to Demonstrate in Sochi. A Krasnoyarsk kray court has left in place a Sochi court’s decision not to permit a demonstration by LGBT groups in Sochi on January 26, an indication of the problems such groups are likely to have despite Vladimir Putin’s recent promise that groups can organize demonstrations if they get FSB permission (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/236669/).
Sochi Mayor Plagiarized Dissertation. Like some other Russian officials, Sochi Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov has been exposed as having lifted large segments of his dissertation from the work of others. His violation of academic integrity, initially raised by Blogsochi.ru has now been taken up by Korruptsiya.net, “Novaya gazeta” and Kompromat.ru (blogsochi.ru/content/mer-sochi-anatolii-pakhomov-%E2%80%93-plagiator).
Pakhomov Blamed for Deforestation of Sochi. Sochi Mayor Anatoly Pakhmov by his actions and inactions is responsible for the cutting down of “hundreds of thousands of trees” in the resort city and its surrounding territory. For the construction of a single power facility in Kudepsta alone, he authorized the cutting down of more than 2,000 trees (blogsochi.ru/content/mer-lesorub).
For Poorer Sochi Residents, Authorities Redecorate a 1950s Barracks. As they watch expensive new buildings going up arount them, some Sochi residents are expressing outrage that local officials are simply lightly redecorating half-century-old barracks as the housing for less well-off people. They describe one of these buildings as tuberculosis breeding grounds (privetsochi.ru/blog/sitiproblem/40522.html).
Russia Experiencing ‘Represssion of Olympic Proportions,’ Freedom House Warns. The western human rights organization Freedom House has released a report detailing the ways in which “on the eve of Sochi,” residents of the Russian Federation are suffering “repression of Olympic proportions” (freedomhouse.org/russia-eve-sochi#.UtZ0GrRcUUN).
27 Nobel Prize Winners Call on Putin to Repeal Anti-Gay Law. Twenty-seven winners of Nobel Prizes in an open letter published in London’s “Independent” call on Russian President Vladimir Putin to repeal the “repressive homophobic legislation” which has sparked denunciations and controversy around the world. Their letter has already drawn fire from Russian commentators who say that the Western scholars are both interfering in Russia’s domestic affairs and promoting immorality (independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/27-nobel-laureates-join-sir-ian-mckellen-to-protest-over-russias-gay-propaganda-ban-9057275.htmlandruskline.ru/news_rl/2014/01/14/oni_prizyvayut_ves_mir_k_sodomu_i_gomorre_te_k_vymiraniyu/).
West Said Using Gays as Frontline Troops for New Cold War Against Russia. Russian commentator Valery Panov says that Western governments are using LGBT activists as frontline troops in their reopened cold war against Russia (stoletie.ru/tekuschiiy_moment/holodnaja_gej-vojna_110.htm).
Despite Local Opposition, Putin Orders 2019 Universiade to Take Place in Krasnoyarsk. Residents and some officials in Krasnoyarsk have opposed Moscow’s plans to have their city host the Universiade in 2019 because their city is already suffering from a deficit and many infrastructure problems. But despite that, President Vladimir Putin has signed an order that the competition will take place there (sobkorr.ru/news/52D5368749126.html).
NBC Co-Host Says She Feels ‘Good Enough’ about Sochi Security. Meredith Vieira,who will co-host NBC’s coverage of the Games, told “The Hollywood Reporter” that”I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t [concerned about security]. But “I really believe the Russian government is going to do everything it can to avoid that situation. This is Putin’s baby and they don’t want anything to go wrong. But that doesn’t mean things won’t happen elsewhere in the country because I think those terrorists are given an opportunity and they will take it.” She concluded, “I’m basically assured that it will be fine. But it may not be. I know that. But I feel good enough about it that I’m going to be there for sure” (hollywoodreporter.com/news/sochi-meredith-vieira-security-concerns-670594).
Islamists Could Attack Sochi with Drones of Their Own. Richard Lourie, who has written extensively about Russia, says that “Russia’s Islamist insurgents may attack the Sochi Winter Olympics with drones. These will not be like the drones used by the Americans, armed with Hellfire missiles. Rather they will be jerry-rigged unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, of the sort easily available online for a few thousand dollars. Such remote-controlled UAVs are probably unstoppable at low altitudes and will not need much armament to cause mayhem.” He speculates that the most likely occasion will be the closing ceremony. That is because February 23rd “marks the 70th anniversary of the deportation of Chechens, Ingush and others from their homelands in the North Caucasus. That choice was either an act of colossal ignorance or colossal arrogance,” he says (themoscowtimes.com/opinion/article/vengeance-in-sochi/492569.html).
Environmental Organizations Appeal to IOC about Russian Repression of Ecologists. Greenpeace Russia, World Wildlife – Russia, and the UN Environmental Program – have appealed to IOC President Thomas Bach to require Moscow to end the repression of Russian ecologists like Yevgeny Vitishko. If the IOC does not do so, the environmental organizations said they would appeal to other international organizations (ewnc.org/node/13432 http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/236610/).
Circassian Leaders Denounce Terrorism. The leaders of major Circassian organizations in the North Caucasus and abroad have issued a statement denouncing terrorism and any other criminal actions some may take for political goals. They said that they remain committed to promoting the Circassian cause but would do so only within the law and the principles of democracy (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/236624/ and kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/236613/).
Cossacks Double Their Sochi Contingent. Russian officials had planned to use 410 Cossacksa as guards during the Sochi Games, but they have now announced plans to double that representation to 820, an increase that suggests Moscow is pulling out all the stops to ensure physical security in the Olympic venue (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/236596/).
Sochi has Cost Every Russian Two Months Salary, Blogger Says. President Vladimir Putin has spent on the Sochi Olympiad an amount equal to 70,000 rubles, more than two months salary, of every Russian man, woman and child, and one that could have been spent to buy military equipment or improve the lives of the people, according to a Russian blogger. And much of this money has been corruptly diverted, he says, pointing to the bankruptcy of 25 companies, some of which may have been only shell corporations, over the last 12 months (blogsochi.ru/content/kto-vam-navral-pro-beshenuyu-stoimost-olimpiady).
Russian Weather Forecasters Have Been Preparing for Sochi for Four Years. Roman Vilfand, the director of Russia’s Hydrometeorological Center, says he and his colleagues have been preparing for four years to make the best forecasts possible for the Sochi Games. He says that there will be enough snow but notes that many competitors prefer artificial snow instead (vestikavkaza.ru/articles/Sinoptiki-obedinilis-pered-Olimpiadoy.html).
Petersburg Police Serving in Sochi Say They’re in Prison-Like Conditions. Some members of the St. Petersburg police who have been transferred to Sochi in advance of the Olympics say that they are being treated as if they were in prison, with bad living conditions and extreme restrictions on their activities (nr2.ru/northwest/478826.html).
Sweden’s Sports Minister to Skip Sochi Opening Ceremony. Lena Adelsohn Lijeroth, Sweden’s minister of sports, says she will go to Sochi to support her country’s athletes but will not take part in the opening ceremonies which she had had been politicized by Russian President Vladimir Putin (http://www.foxnews.com/sports/2014/01/13/swedish-minister-snubs-sochi-olympics-opening-ceremony-calls-it-putin/).
Human Rights Watch Fears Conditions in Russia Could Deteriorate After Sochi. Tanya Lokshina, HRW’s Russia program director and senior researcher, said in releasing an HRW guide to the Olympiad that “What happens if — God forbid — everyone forgets about Russia after the Olympics and all the eyes that are now focused on Russia as the host country of the Olympic Games will be turned the other way? We are seriously worried that, should such a situation occur, the offensive against civil society, freedom of opinion, and independent activists will be strongly advanced. The screws might be tightened exceptionally severely. The only way to prevent that from happening is to continue to keep our attention on Russia once the Olympic Games are over” (rferl.org/content/sochi-olympics-rights-hrw-report/25228434.html).
Many in Moscow Worried by Growing Criticism of Sochi. Nikolay Petrov, a poessor at the Moscow Higher School of Economics, says that the many in Moscow’s expert community are concerned about “the growing wave of criticism abroad of Vladimir Putin’s Olympic policy and the dissatisfaction of Russians with the torch show and the enormous expenditures for the competition itself.” This development suggests that the Kremlin leader has made a miscalculation in how he has organized the games and that this may have political consequences for him in the coming months, including a possible challenge to his power (voboda.org/content/article/25228578.html).
FSB is Preparing to Block Protests More than to Prevent Terrorism, Soldatov Says. Andrey Soldatov, Russia’s leading independent expert on that country’s security agencies, says that the security program that the FSB has put in place in Sochi appears to be more about preventing protests rather than terrorist actions. He also says that the games are providing “an excellent opportunity” for Russian counter-intelligence officers to gather “personal data on so many important people” (cbc.ca/news/world/russia-s-olympic-security-to-set-new-surveillance-standard-at-sochi-1.2492247).
Sochi Fan Passport Requires Much Personal Information. The Sochi Olympiad organizers have now put up a website about the fan passport they have introduced in the name of security. It requires far more detailed information than visa applications (https://pass.sochi2014.com/sochi/?locale=ru#tab_info).
‘Almost All’ Illegal Buildings in Sochi Have Been Legalized or Torn Down. Russian officials say that “almost all” of the many buildings erected in Sochi without permission or in violation of city rules have been legalized or torn down. In place of many of those torn down is new Olympics-related construction (maks-portal.ru/ekonomika-sochi/v-sochi-snesli-pochti-vse-nezakonnye-postroiki).
Russian Actor Who Said Gays Should be Put in Ovens Calls for Ban on Homosexuality. Ivan Okhlobystin, a Rusian actor who earlier called for gays to be put in ovens has now called on President Vladimir Putin to restore the Soviet-era ban on homosexuality. His comments have infuriated many but received support from others (pinknews.co.uk/2014/01/08/russian-actor-who-called-for-gays-to-be-put-in-ovens-urges-putin-to-ban-homosexuality/).
Heritage Report Says US Should Help Moscow with Sochi Security. A report on security and counter-terrorism at Sochi prepared by Heritage researchers Cassandra Lucaccioni and Ariel Cohen says that the United States should provide “the Russian leadership and Olympic council to put in place comprehensive counterterrorism measures to protect the city of Sochi, the athletes, and the spectators while allowing an exciting and competitive global event to take place” (www.heritage.org/research/reports/2014/01/sochi-security-and-counterterrorism-at-the-2014-winter-olympics).
Putin’s Sochi Spending May Scare Off Future Olympic Bids. One of the consequences of the enormous price of the Sochi Games, Simon Jenkiins of “The Guardian” says, is that many countries which might have been interested in hosting the games in the future will decide against doing so. “In Rio, the poor (and not so poor) are already rioting against the extravagance,” he says. “In Sochi, Putin’s gamble with international terrorism is already proving lethal. As so far planned, Qatar will have footballers dying of heat and stadiums left decaying in the desert like Ozymandias’s ruins. It will one day go horribly wrong. Perhaps then a brave ruler will have the guts to walk away from this nonsense” (theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jan/10/sochi-winter-olympics-gods-of-sport).
‘A Caucasian Olympics without Caucasians.’ Russia’s decision to place the Kabardino-Balkaria Republic on the other side of its national security perimeter and the orders officials reportedly have issued to residents of Daghestan, Chechnya and Ingushetia not to travel to Krasnodar kray without special permission until after the Sochi Games may mean that they will prove to be “a Caucasian Olympics without Caucasians” (timur-kuashev.livejournal.com/171856.html and kavpolit.com/olimpiada-na-kavkaze-bez-kavkazcev/).
High Winds Knock over Sochi City New Year’s Tree. High winds have knocked down the Sochi city new year’s tree, and residents note that no one has yet tried to put it back up (blogsochi.ru/content/upala-elka-i-davai-valyatsya).
Sochi Games Have Poisoned Abkhazia’s Relations with Russia. According to a “Newsweek” account, Abkhazians are outraged that they have been prevented from competing as a separate country at Sochi or from earning money by working on Olympic construction or even from attending the competitions. As one Abkhazian told the American news weeksly, “you have to be careful with Russians. If you put your finger in their mouth, they’ll bite off your arm right up to the shoulder” (mag.newsweek.com/2014/01/10/abkhazia-russia-olympics-sochi.html).
Circassians Begin Commemoration of 150th Anniversary of 1864 Genocide. Circassians in Adygeya have held the first memorial events to mark the 150th anniversary of the genocide carried out against their ancestors by Russian forces. They say that they will hold such events throughout the year and announced that whatever happens in Sochi – and most Circassians oppose the games because they take place on the site where many of their nation were killed — the Circassians “will not forget about the tragedy of their own people for a minute” (maykopkhase.blogspot.ru/2014/01/blog-post.html).
Security Gaps on Rail Lines Confirmed. Experts have confirmed a report by Kuban television last week that there are serious security gaps on the rail lines leading into Sochi, gaps that could allow a terrorist to enter the city with little risk of being stopped or even challenged (kavpolit.com/kak-by-chego-iz-sochi-ne-vyvezli/).
Low Public Trust in Russian Media and Officials Allows Rumors to Spread. Many Russians particularly in the North Caucasus do not trust what the largely state-controlled media and officials tell them, something that is reflected both in suggestions that Russian officials themselves may be behind recent terrorist outrages, an unwillingness to believe the confessions of those arrested for the Volgograd attacks, and the rapid spread of panicky rumors, independent journalists say (kavpolit.com/panikery-raskachivayut-kavkaz/).
Competitors and Fans at Risk of Ammonia Poisoning at Sochi Bobsled Track. According to Ecological Watch on the North Caucasus, shoddy construction means that in the event of even a small accident on the Sochi bobsled track, many competitors and fans could be at risk of ammonia poisoning. The EWNC said that contractors could have eliminated such a risk with proper planning but that they had not done so and that the health of many could now be endangered (ewnc.org/node/13413).
Belgian Senate Rejects Call for Sochi Boycott. The Belgian senate approved a resolution rejecting a boycott of the Sochi Games that representatives of the country’s Green Party had called for (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/236423/).
Sochi Schoolboy Says Pakhomov Should Go to Antarctica and Herd Penguins. Asked what he would like to tell Sochi Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov, a schoolboy in the Olympic city said that he would like to tell him to move to Antarctica and herd penguins, a measure of just how unpopular Pakhomov now is (privetsochi.ru/blog/school_sochi/40325.html).
Metal Thefts on the Rise in Sochi. Thieves are stealing copper and other metals from construction sites in order to make money, a crime very common in the Russian Federation in the 1990s but relatively rare now. Apparently, many construction sites are not well-guarded and thieves have found it easy to make off with large amounts of the valuable metals (privetsochi.ru/blog/warning/40285.html).
Novosibirsk Residents Make a Sochi Out of Snow – Including Icy Palm Trees. In honor of the Winter Olympiad in the subtropics, residents of the capital of Siberia have build a model of Sochi out of snow, including palm trees! (vesti-sochi.tv/olimpiada/22209-v-stolice-sibiri-pojavilsja-ledovyj-olimpijskij-gorodok-s-palmami).
Circassians Lumped with ‘Many Others’ in Cultural Plans for Sochi. According to a report posted on the Circassian Voices webpage, there will be Circassian performers taking part in the cultural programs in Sochi, but unlike Rusians, Cossacks, and Udmurts, there is as yet no specific reference to them in Olympic planning documents that have been made public. Instead, it is assumed they are being lumped together with “many others.” “It is not clear whether this omission is intentional or not. It is perhaps that we are not looking in the right place, or missed something. Be that as it may, it seems that although a substantive Circassian cultural component is scheduled during the games, at the meta-level,” the report concludes, “the Circassians are being ignored” (circasvoices.blogspot.com/2014/01/report-on-circassian-component-of_3.html).
Sochi Games have ‘Nothing to Do’ with Patriotism, Prestige or Health, Russian Blogger Says. Despite the Kremlin’s claims to the contrary, the holding of an Olympic games in Sochi has “nothing to do” with patriotism, prestige or promoting public health, a blogger says.Consequently, there is no justification for the enormous sums of money being spent on them (zakon.mirtesen.ru/blog/43249974000/zachem-nam-olimpiada?utm_campaign=transit&utm_source=main&utm_medium=page_0&pad=1).
Russian Economy Likely to Suffer Post-Olympic Recession. Western and Russian experts say that following the Sochi Games and the infusion of money into the economy that that competition has represented, the Russian economy as a whole is likely to suffer, although perhaps not as much as those of other Olympic hosts in the past (svpressa.ru/society/article/80341/).
Moscow Seen Preparing Anti-Georgian ‘Provocation’ at Sochi.Paata Davitaya, the leader of Georgia’s European Democrats, says that Moscow is currently preparing “a serious provocation against Georgia” to take place at the time of the Sochi Games and likely involving the Abkhazians (abkhazeti.info/abkhazia/2014/1389376547.php).
Sochi Cartoons Increasingly Sharp. Russian cartoonists have had a field day with Sochi, but in recent days, their drawings have become ever more significant as a form of public commentary. One cartoon showed a man selling snacks and Sochi license plates to people trying to drive into the city (blogsochi.ru/content/churchkhela-pakhlava-sochinskie-nomera). Another showed rabbits being asked to vote for a fox as the only choice for their leader (blogsochi.ru/content/o-vyborakh-v-sochi). A third showed Putin using “smoke” from the Olympic torch to try to hide repression (twitter.com/FaraPussyRiot/status/421651057807093760/photo/1). A fourth showed an Olympic torchbearer being blocked from entering Sochi by siloviki (twitter.com/ninaivanovna/status/421868916265058304/photo/1). And a fifth showed the four horse of the apocalypse riding into Sochi, one of whom looked like a security officer and another like Moscow Patriarch Kirill (privetsochi.ru/blog/Flood/40371.html).
Duma Preparing New Anti-Terrorist Laws. In the wake of the Volgograd terrorist attacks and in defense of Sochi, the Russian parliament is considering a package of new laws that will increase penalties for terrorist actions, expand government control over the Internet, and block anonymous funds transfer (sova-center.ru/misuse/news/lawmaking/2014/01/d28799/ and kavpolit.com/informacionnoe-pole-dolzhno-byt-nedostupnym-dlya-terroristov/).
Russian Energy Minister Promises Sochi Electric Grid Will Be Ready by January 25. Pressed by Russian President Vladimir Putin and at a time when more than 20,000 Sochi residents are suffering power outages on a daily basis, some planned and many as the result of construction accidents, Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak said that his ministry will finish “all work” on the grid by January 20 and have it cleared for public access by January 25 (http://blogsochi.ru/content/vstrecha-vputina-s-ministrom-energetiki-anovakom and latimes.com/sports/sportsnow/la-sp-sn-2014-sochi-olympics-power-boost-20140110,0,7523849.story#axzz2q5KajCcP).
Fraudulent Poll on Sochi Pulled Off the Internet. A poll that gave those who responded few choices but to say they were awaiting the Sochi Games with enthusiasm unless they put other was pulled after bloggers noted that, like many other North Caucasus enumeration, the numbers listed totaled more than 100 percent. One blogger noted that this finding makes Sochi only slightly less popular than the ruling United Russia Party which received 146 percent in one election (echo.msk.ru/blog/echomsk/1235866-echo/, privetsochi.ru/blog/Flood/40306.htmland privetsochi.ru/blog/Flood/40317.html).I\
Italian Olympic Committee Member Criticizes US for Including Gay Athletes on Its Delegation. Mario Pescante, a member of the Italian Olympic Committee, said that it was “absurd” that the US was sending “four lesbians to Russia just to demonstrate that in their country gay rights [have been established].” Pescante said he is not against gays but only against the politicization of the Olympiad (abcnews.go.com/Sports/wireStory/senior-ioc-member-criticizes-us-choices-sochi-21546112).
Moscow to Monitor Sochi from Space if Need Be. Emergency Situations Minister Vladimir Puchkov said the Russian government would monitor Sochi from space if need be. Other officials noted that responsibility for controlling the airspace over Sochi would be divided among four different agencies, including the FSB and the Interior Ministry (ria.ru/incidents/20140110/988605097.html#ixzz2qC0p4fqu and
Sewage Leaks and Trash Remain Problems. Despite official promises and some efforts, Sochi residents continue to find new sewage leaks in public places and trash heaps where they are not supposed to be (blogsochi.ru/content/kanalizatsiya-u-moremolla,kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/236518/, privetsochi.ru/blog/eco-sochi/40507.html, privetsochi.ru/blog/eco-sochi/40489.html and http://blogsochi.ru/content/eshche-odin-olimpiiskii-vorovskoi-karer-sochi).
Sochi Residents Continue to Struggle with Water and Power Outages, TV Cutoffs, Enhanced Security, and Rising Prices. Sochi residents are increasingly angry that their power, water and heat is anything but reliable, that their television service has been cut off for several days, that the enhanced security measures Moscow has imposed are making their lives more complicated, and that they face rising prices, including what looks like price gouging by utilities seeking to recover their own rising costs or to make a profit (privetsochi.ru/blog/Wailing_wall/40352.html,
kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/236619/, privetsochi.ru/blog/komunalka/40491.html,privetsochi.ru/blog/Wailing_wall/40296.html#cut, blogsochi.ru/content/spetsrezhim-%C2%ABolimpiiskii%C2%BB-chto-zapretili-v-sochi,privetsochi.ru/blog/bred_sochi/40564.html and privetsochi.ru/blog/elsochi/40561.html).
Two Million People Have Viewed Film on Sochi Moscow Didn’t Want Shown. Because of the Internet, two million people have viewed a film that the Kremlin tried to block nine months ago. Many have also viewed other films and film clips critical of the Sochi games (privetsochi.ru/blog/Flood/40471.html, blogsochi.ru/content/olimpiada-vne-igry andhttp://svobodu-narodam.livejournal.com/682704.html).
Sochi Still has Still Not Created a Barrier-Free Environment. Russian Paralymic organizers have made serious strides in creating a barrier-free environment in Sochi given the place from which they started, but there are still many places where people with physical handicaps will find it difficult or impossible to gain access (sochinskie-novosti.com/%D0%BD%D0%B5%D0%BD%D0%BE%D1%80%D0%BC%D0%B0%D1%82%D0%B8%D0%B2%D0%BD%D0%B0%D1%8F-%D1%81%D1%80%D0%B5%D0%B4%D0%B0/).
WINDOW ON EURASIA: SOCHI COUNTDOWN – 4 WEEKS TO THE OLYMPIAD IN THE NORTH CAUCASUS
Note: This is my 46th 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 email@example.com Allow me to express my thanks to all those who already have. Paul Goble
Putin Gets Credit for Relaxing Restrictions on Protests … Having earlier issued a ban on all demonstrations in Sochi, Russian President Vladimir Putin received praise from the International Olympic Committee, some Russian commentators and much of the Western media for modifying that ban to allow protests at special sites in Sochi during the Olympiad if the demonstrations are not connected with the Games themselves and if organizers receive permissionfrom the interior ministry, the FSB and the local authorities, effectively shifting the responsibility for rejecting such applications from the Kremlin to the bureaucracy rather than respecting Russian constitutional guarantees for such meetings (kremlin.ru/acts/20026, espn.go.com/olympics/story/_/id/10241783/vladimir-putin-backs-ban-demonstrations-2014-sochi-olympics, ria.ru/sochi2014_news/20140104/987901056.html, forum-msk.org/material/news/10183106.html, kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/236203/,sochi2014.rsport.ru/sochi2014/20140104/712604345.html,and blogsochi.ru/content/putin-razreshil-mitingi-v-sochi-vo-vremya-olimpiady).
… But Activists and Analysts Say His New Rules Won’t Allow Real Ones … Boris Nemtsov, a leader of the Russian opposition, Nikolay Alekseyev, an LGBT activist, and Lev Levinson, an expert at the Moscow Institute of Human Rights, among others, say that Putin’s latest move effectively bans all meeetings but allows the Russian president to escape personal responsibility for prohibiting them. And Jane Buchanan, associate director of Human Rights Watch, says that Russia’s move to create protest zones represents “an assault on free speech” rather than a defense of it and should be evaluated as a public relations stunt rather than a change of heart by Vladimir Putin (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/236217/ andpolicyreview.eu/despite-prisoner-amnesty-oppressive-russia-escalating-harassment-of-dissenters/).
… And Russian Commentator Lampoons Putin’s Announcement. In a blog post on Kasparov.ru, Sergey Lunin lampoons Putin’s latest move a “a big step forward,” noting that the inmates of Hitler’s concentration camps could never “even dream” of having such spaces to express their grievances against the Nazis. Creating special zones for permitted protests thus demonstrates “how much humanity has improved” since then, Lunin says (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=52C8564A2DB21).
Putin Promises ‘Total Annihilation’ of Terrorists. In his New Year’s message to the Russian people, President Vladimir Putin promised as he has in the past to “strongly and decisively continue the battle against terrorists until their total annihilation.” Shortly thereafter, he arrived in Sochi to inspect, among other things, security arrangements that some are calling “a ring of steel” around the Olympic city. Accompanying him, among others, was Federal Migration Service director Konstantin Romodanovsky who has taken the lead in expelling illegal gastarbeiters and tightening registration requirements for workers from other parts of the North Caucasus and Central Asia (news.nationalpost.com/2014/01/04/can-russia-make-the-olympic-games-in-sochi-safe-from-terrorists/, telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/vladimir-putin/10550712/Vladimir-Putin-makes-final-inspection-of-Sochis-ring-of-steel-security.htmland vz.ru/news/2014/1/7/667047.html).
Sochi Becomes a ‘Closed City’ on Russian Christmas. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decree ordering unprecedentedly tight security for the Sochi Olympiad went into effect on January 7, a “Christmas present” that “killed the holiday spirit” not only in Sochi but throughout the region, according to Vladimir Kimayev, head of the YABLOKO party organization in that city. Many said they agreed with the need for enhanced security but expressed concern that officials were exceeding their briefs, jumping the gun to enforce the decree, over-conscientiously checking documents,and violating the Russian constitution. Some suggested that fences and locks had become the symbol of the resort city, and others complained that restrictions on cars and streets were getting in the way of normal activities for an absurdly long period. Some of these excesses may be ended after a shakedown period, but others are likely to endure. It certainly did nothing to calm the situation when a senior Russian official said that “all divisions responsible for ensuring the security of guests at the games are being put on combat alert,” a statement many see as pointing to a long siege of the city. At the same time, there have been some lighter moments: One policeman tried to prevent a Soch resident from entering a restroom simply because the man could not produce his documents (privetsochi.ru/blog/bred_sochi/40000.html).
(kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/236338/, privetsochi.ru/blog/sochi2014/40177.html, kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/236284/, grani.ru/tags/sochi/m.223146.html,privetsochi.ru/blog/bred_sochi/40156.html,
Russian Security Efforts Unlikely to Be Totally Effective, Soldatov Says … Andrey Soldatov, Russia’s leading independent expert on that country’s security services, says Moscow is using a combination of old-style Soviet control methods and new technologies to defend against terrorism but has done little or nothing to promote what are the most important means of doing so: the collection of significant intelligence about the opposition and the sharing of information among the various government offices involved. Those are areas in which “the Russian special services have always had problems.” As a result, security at the time of the games cannot be taken as guaranteed and discussion of the Sochi Olympics has shifted from a focus on sports to one on security. Soldatov added that he is far from certain whether he personally would go to Sochi under the circumstanes (svoboda.org/content/article/25221821.html).
… Other Experts Concur. Russian and Western experts generally concur with Soldatov’s conclusion, with most suggesting that Moscow may be able to prevent a terrorist attack at the Olympic venues but not block one in outlying areas. Among those taking that view are Ariel Cohen of the Heritage Foundation who says that “Moscow-run security services provide … poor intelligence work against terrorist targets,” Masha Gessen, a Russina journalist, who says that “the Soviet combination of powerlessness and pretence has been recreated, and Mark Galeotti of New York Univeersity who says that Moscow’s two billion US dollar investment in Sochi security won’t block attacks outside of Sochi. But he added, as do most, that “insurgents and terrorists have been able to get through what was meant to be impenetrable security by paying bribes or just taking advantage of human weaknesses” (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/236279/,
usatoday.com/story/opinion/2014/01/02/russia-bombings-putin-sochi-olympics-column/4294453/ and thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/01/02/the-volgograd-bombings-and-the-return-of-big-terror-to-russia.html).
Counter-Terrorist Regime Introduced in Stavropol after Bodies Found. Moscow has launched a counter-terrorism operation in Stavropol kray after six bodies were found in parked cars and an explosive device was discovered nearby. Russia’s Investigative Committee and the FSB are conducting a security sweep of the region to try to identify those responsible. Some observers suspect terrorists from the nearby North Caucasus and link this action to the attempts of militants to disrupt the Olympics (stavregion.ru/news/2014/01/09/na-territoriyah-predgornogo-i-kirovskogo-rajonov-s/ and bloomberg.com/news/2014-01-09/russia-places-region-near-sochi-on-alert-as-6-found-dead-in-cars.html).
Kuban TV Shows How Easy It Would Be for Terrorists to Take the Train to Sochi. A six-minute segment on Sovetsky Kuban television shows how easy it would be for anyone, including a terrorist, to circumvent the minimal security arrangements at some railway stations (blogsochi.ru/content/sovetskaya-kuban-olimpiiskii-sochi-dostupen-dlya-terroristov).
410 Kuban Cossacks to Help with Sochi Security. The Kuban Cossack Army says it is sending 410 of its community to help provide security (en.rsport.ru/olympics/20140109/713711586.html and kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/236374/).
US, United Kingdom Offer Moscow Counter-Terrorism Help. US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel telephoned his Russian counterpart Sergey Shoygu to offer counter-terorrism assistnace to help make the Sochi games safe, if such assistance is requested. Meanwhile, British PrimeMinnsiter David Cameron directed MI-6 to share with Moscow any information it had that could help prevent terrorist attacks against Sochi or during the Sochi Games (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/236231/, rt.com/news/pentagon-russia-help-sochi-192/ and kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/236277/).
FBI to Send Agents to Help Russia with Sochi Security. James B. Comey, director of the FBI, said his organization is sending special agents and support personnel to provide security at the Sochi Games. Approximately 25 will be based in Moscow while a dozen others will be in Sochi itself (washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/fbi-sending-security-help-to-sochi-olympics/2014/01/09/f56f7d5e-7960-11e3-b1c5-739e63e9c9a7_story.html).
No Flights ‘from Outside the FSU’ Except for Charters or Private Planes Now Allowed to Land at Sochi. Among the security arrangements that have now gone into place is a ban on all flights from outside the former Soviet Union to the Olympic city. Instead, all regular passengers from the “far” abroad will have to go via Moscow or St. Petersburg (guardianlv.com/2014/01/sochi-why-the-olympics-will-be-safe/).
Russians Urged to Defend Their Rights But Not If Facing Police Alone. A Sochi legal affairs expert says that Russians should defend their rights when they think they are being violated but not take the risk of doing so when they are facing the police alone. That is necessary to overcome among both the police and the population the widespread “presumption of guilt” that many operate under. Any “heroism,” however, should be avoided because it carries with it great personal risks (privetsochi.ru/blog/grazhdannskoe_obhestvo_goroda_sochi/40135.html).
Tight Security at Cathedral Where Putin Went Forces Most Residents to Go Elsewhere. Security around the new Sochi cathedral where Russian President Vladimir Putin attended Russian Christmas services was so tight that, in the words of Kavka-uzel.ru, “many believersin Sochi preferred to visit” one of the 34 older Orthodox churches in the city or not attend any (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/236314/).
FSB to Retain Meta-Data from Sochi Meta-Data for Three Years. Andrey Soldatov and Irina Borogan, Russia’s leading independent specialists on that country’s security services, says that the meta-data that is being collected by Rostelekom for conversations in and around Sochi will be retained for three years by the FSB in its database (ej.ru/?a=note&id=24044).
New Ban on Liquids on Russian Aircraft Outrages Some. In the name of security for the Sochi Olympics, the Russian government has banned air travelers inside the country from carrying anything liquid, including medicines, a move that has outraged some Russians. One commentator, who said he had been a supporter of the Sochi Games, says that this ban may change his mind. “Perhaps for [others] there exists another Olympics, but for me,” he said, the games are all about my need and right to carry my medicines with me (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/236331/ and echo.msk.ru/blog/ganapolsky/1234126-echo/).
US Readies Plan for Mass Evacuation of Athletes from Sochi. USA Today reports that the US government has prepared a plan for the evacuation of American athletes from Sochi in the event of a disaster or terrorist attack and has signed a contract with Global Rescue which calls for, among other things, the preparation of five jets to implement (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/236350/).
Putin Implicitly Admits Not All Olympic Sites are Fully Ready. At the start of President Vladimir Putin’s latest visit to Sochi and despite the insistence of Russian Olympic Committee officials that Sochi is ready for guests, aides to the Kremlin leader said he would be focusing his attention on those sites where more remains to be done. One sector that Putin appears to be especially concerned about is the electrical network. He directed the energy ministry to take control of the problem-plagued branch (mk.ru/politics/russia/news/2014/01/09/968163-putin-poruchil-minenergo-zhestko-kontrolirovat-energosistemu-v-sochi.html and vesti-sochi.tv/olimpiada/22093-putin-proverit-olimpijskie-obekty-gde-est-nedorabotki).
Ufa Paper Attacks ‘Liberal Rats’ for Opposing Sochi Olympics. According to an article in the main newspaper of the Bashkortostan capital, Russian “liberals are competing with each other as to who can spit the most on the approaching Olympics” in Sochi. These “liberals,” the paper says, ignore the fact that “the Sochi billions work for [Russia’s] economy,” because “the incomes of citizens and the expenditures of the state are one and the same thing.” Moreover, the paper says, they forget that Russia’s prestigeis on the line as well (ufvrem.ru/jce/stati/352-olimpijskij-korabl-i-liberalnye-krysy).
Sochi ‘Tough Sell’ for US Fans Even Before Volgograd. Tour firms in the United States say that the Sochi Olympiad was “a tough sell” even before the Volgograd violence, with one in Chicago saying it was sending only 50 to Sochi compared to the 350 she organized visits for the Beijing Games. The location and the possibility of terrorist violence are only part of the problem, she continued. Sochi has problems with local transportation and suffers from the lack of high-end hotels. According to another tour firm in Austin, Texas, Sochi is becoming “more of an event that people are really happy to watch on TV” rather than to attend. Bookings for Sochi are also below expectations, the Association of Tour Operators of Russia says, because of the country’s economic problems. But it suggests there may be a last-minute burst because Russian travelers increasingly have been scheduling their holidays not far in advance but shortly before they go (travelweekly.com/Europe-Travel/Sochi-Olympics-a-tough-sell-even-before-Volgograd-bombings/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TravelWeeklysTopStories+%28Travel+Weekly%27s+Top+Stories%29 and vestikavkaza.ru/articles/2013-god-turoperatory-nazvali-predkrizisnym.html).
Olympiad Loses Another Star to Injury. Despite “tough security measures,” “a vastmedia center,” and a highly orchestrated “torch relay extravaganza,” Russian Sport says, “Sochi’s Olympic organizers found themselves upstaged by a skier’s knee Tuesday, with just one month to go until the Games.Lindsay Vonn, the Vancouver 2010 Olympic downhill gold medalist and one of the Winter Games’ most recognizable faces, will not compete in Sochi after succumbing to a knee problem that has dogged her since at least 2007.Other prominent athletes have withdrawn from Sochi in recent months, including French downhill and giant slalom world champions Marion Rolland and Tessa Worley, but none of them has the name recognition and marketability of Vonn, a big name in her own right who has gained extra exposure through her ongoing relationship with golf star Tiger Woods.” With each such absence, the Games will likely lose some of television audience advertisers are counting on (en.rsport.ru/olympics/20140107/713461889.html).
Putin Seeks Gold in Anti-Terrorist Effort, US Commentator Says. Writing in Nashville’sTennessean, Rachel Marsden says that terrorist threats against Sochi, combine with the Syrian conflict and Islamist violence, “give Russia the chance to assume a leadership role in the struggle againt terrorism” and suggest that Russian President Vladimir Putin will be able to win the gold in that struggle (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/236344/).
Anti-Gay Policies and Attitudes Leading Many Russian LGBTs to Emigrate. Russian LGBTs say that anti-gay attitudes and policies are now so strong that Russia has become “an even tougher place to be gay, lesbian, or bisexual” and that as a result ever more of them are emigrating. Those who remain say that violence against the LGBT community has those who remain thinking “a lot” about doing the same thing (theglobeandmail.com/news/world/gay-russias-choice-back-to-the-closet-or-pack-it-in/article16191888/ andbuzzfeed.com/davidtuller/far-from-russias-biggest-cities-being-gay-means-being-always).
IOC Member Says One-Third of Money Spent on Sochi has Gone Missing. Gian-Franco Casper, a member of the International Olympic Committee, says that about a third of the 50 billion plus US dollars spent on the Sochi Olympiad has disappeared instead of being spent as nominally intended. (That would be some 16 billion US dollars, only slightly less than Boris Nemtsov estimated had been corruptly diverted in his book on Sochi.) He also says that Russian President Vladimir Putin views the games as a matter ofhis prestige, that Putin’s recent amnesties and pardons were taken for public relations reasons, and that there will be 50,000 security personnel guarding the games (rusplt.ru/news/chlen-mok-razvorovana-tret-potrachennyih-na-olimpiadu-v-sochi-deneg-77230.html).
Romney Says Russia Should Not Have Been Selected to Host Olympiad. Saying that if it were his choice, Mitt Romney, former Massachusetts governor and Republican presidential candidate, says, he would never have awarded Russia an Olympics because its leaders have not been “particularly collaborative” internationally. “But it’s not my choice,” he continued. “They are a player on the global stage … but they do strain the view of people like myself as to their leadership and their characterization of the Olympic spirit.” He said that he had no doubt about Vladimir Putin’s “ability to turn the Black Sea resort of Sochi into a fortress” but that “it’s really the intelligence work that goes into the Olympics months and years before the games” that blocks terrorism. Romney added that it is his “guess that the Russians have done a pretty good job on the intelligence side of things to keep the most dangerous people away” (bostonherald.com/news_opinion/local_coverage/2014/01/romney_i_wouldnt_have_given_russia_the_winter_games, espn.go.com/olympics/story/_/id/10246382/mitt-romney-olympic-spirit-threatened-via-sochi-games, vz.ru/news/2014/1/7/667027.html and itar-tass.com/politika/872627).
Australian Olympians Told Not to Use Social Networks. Members of Australia’s Olympic team who have already been told not to travel outside of the route between their residences and places of competition in Sochi have now been directed by officials of their national Olympic committee not to make use of social networks when they are in the southern Russian city. The latter decision appears to reflect both a desire to avoid the problems some Australian competitors got into with social networks at the London Games and concerns about Russian plans to monitor social networks more intensively than ever before (vesti-sochi.tv/olimpiada/22109-olimpijcam-iz-avstralii-zapretili-v-sochi-polzovatsja-socsetjami and latimes.com/travel/deals/la-trb-australia-sochi-olympics-safety-20131231,0,4025327.story#axzz2pKdqRwA9).
Volgograd Explosions Challenge Russian Assumptions about Sochi Security. Russian officials have expected terrorist acts involving the Sochi Games to take place in or near that city and to be carried out by North Caucasians. Instead, the first major actions directed against the games took place in Volgograd and were implemented by an ethnic Russian, thus calling into question the assumptions underlying most of Moscow’s security planning. The Volgograd bombings, however, did confirm one assumption Moscow has made: any attacks anywhere in Russia in this period will be linked to Sochi no matter whether they are or not (newia.info/12670 andrusi.org/analysis/commentary/ref:C52C6F2B741F18/#.UscDarRcUUO).
Nearly 3,000 Russian Citizens have Died from Terrorism Since Putin Came to Power. Despite Vladimir Putin’s claims that he has brought stability to Russia, at least 2964 Russian citizens have died in approximately 100 terrorist attacks since he became president, according to the Global Terrorism Database, numbers far higher than under his predecessor (aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2014/01/fighters-blow-hole-russia-security-plan-20141172210773226.html).
Volgograd Bombings had Three Goals, Turkish Analyst Says. Kerim Has, an expert at the USAK Center for Eurasian Studies, says that the Volgograd bombings had at least three goals: to force a cancellation of the Sochi Olympics or at least make those thinking about attending nervous, to show that Vladimir Putin’s “security concept” is incorrect and inadequate and therefore unlikely to be able to prevent future attack, and to promote ethnic Russian flight from the North Caucasus so that non-Russian and predominantly Muslim nations there will become more predominant (turkishweekly.net/columnist/3833/sochi-olympics-and-terrorism-in-russia.html).
Russia Today Says Sochi is Ready for Visitors; Photographs Show It Isn’t. The Russia Today television channel continues to insist that Sochi is “ready to receive guests” for the Olympiad, but photographs taken by residents and posted online show that there are many facilities that are not yet finished and others that have been incompletely or only shoddily completed (blogsochi.ru/content/russia-today-sochi-gotov-prinimat-gostei andprivetsochi.ru/blog/auto_sochi/40168.html).
Russian Authorities Continue Harassment of Sochi Environmentalists. Even as protests in support of Yevgeny Vitishko, the environmental activist who has been sentenced to three years in jail, continue in many Russian cities, the authorities in Krasnoyarsk continue to harass his colleagues by conducting an illegal search of the apartment of Natalnya Kainovskaya, who like Vitishko, has called attention to the illegal actions of Krasnodar Governor Aleksandr Tkachev (blogsochi.ru/content/svobodu-evgeniyu-vitishko-detalnoe-razbiratelstvo-po-delu-o-%22dache-tkacheva%22 and blogsochi.ru/content/obyski-u-natali-kalinovskoi-ili-kak-vlast-presleduet-ekologicheskikh-aktivistov-i-pravozashc).
Environmentalists Win One Case, Appear to Have Lost Another. Residents of Shapsug auls near Sochi have won their case in court, supported by Ecological Watch on the North Caucasus, against the excavation of gravel from a river that flows through their region. They won it, however, only after Olympic contractors had pulled so much gravel out of the riverbed that it has affected the ecosystem and at a time when construction is nearly over. Meanwhile, officials continue to stall through obfuscation another case involving the destruction of areas in the national park there (ewnc.org/node/13400, blogsochi.ru/content/pamyatniki-prirody-opyat-v-opasnosti and blogsochi.ru/content/ushcherb-svyshe-194-000-000-rublei-administrativnoe-pravonarushenie).
Public Meeting in Sochi Calls for Mayor’s Ouster, Improved City Services. Two hundred Sochi residents assembled at a public meeting, which was organized by the Law and Ordeer NGO and the Social Reform Party, at which they called for the ouster of the city’s mayor, Anatoly Pakhmov, for his continuing failure to protect them against Olympic construction and demanded that city officials improve the provision of basic services like electricity, water, sewage disposal, and housing (blogsochi.ru/content/massovyi-miting-v-tsentre-goroda-sochi, privetsochi.ru/blog/politics_sochi/40076.html,blogsochi.ru/content/rezolyutsiya-mitinga-5-yanvarya-2014-goda-sochi,http://ewnc.org/node/13387 and http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/236245/).
Many Sochi Residents Continue to Be Without Electricity, Heat, and Water. Unplanned outages of electricity, heat and water, in addition to all those announced in advance, continue to be the bane of existence not only for many Sochi residents in their apartments but also of local hospitals, kindergartens and other public institutions. And ever more rather than fewer have to confront torn up streets and sidewalks as Olympic contractors race to put in infrastructure that they did not do earlier. Some streets have been torn up multiple times, and many sidewalks are dangerous for pedestrians (blogsochi.ru/content/pochemu-net-sveta-v-nashikh-domakh, sochinskie-novosti.com/2014/01/03/ andprivetsochi.ru/blog/bred_sochi/39980.html).
More Travails of the Olympic Torch. The Olympic torch continues to be carried across Russia in what was intended to mobilize the population for the Games, but instead, its passage has only highlighted problems. Not only did the torch continue to go out when it wasn’t supposed to, but officials blocked an ambulance to allow it to pass, prompting some to ask “what is more important: the torch or the life of an individual?” Elsewhere, people put up signs complaining about mafia-control of the courts, hopeful that doing so might attract broader attention because of media coverage of the torch, or about the enormous sums of money being spent on Sochi when basic needs of the Russian population continue to go unmet. In Kirov, one man voiced his frustration by shouting “Go to hell with your torch and take the Olympics with you!” (privetsochi.ru/blog/Flood/40080.html, triboona.ru/posts/view/465, and forum-msk.org/material/news/10185668.html).
Sochi Residents Warned about Wild Dogs, Con Artists. Anyone walking through Sochi at night should be wary of being attacked by a band of wild dogs, and all Sochi residents and visitors should beware of the increasing number of con artists who are now plaguing the city, residents warn (privetsochi.ru/blog/extreme_sochi/40185.html and privetsochi.ru/blog/Flood/40158.html).
Sochi Policemen on the Beat Shouldn’t Be Blamed for Excesses, Resident Says. Residents and bloggers should stop criticizing low-ranking policemen on the beat for the excesses their bosses have ordered, one resident says. They “are also people who are suffering from the Olympics. Just imaine someonewho for four onths has been called away from his home and family and forced to spend New Year’s and Christmas in a barracks.” The resident adds that “yes, there are various kinds of people in the police … but that’s to be expected as the police are a slice of society and as society is, soo too is the police. Let’s be kind to one another” (privetsochi.ru/blog/sochi2014/40182.html).
May Sochi Residents Suffer as Little as Possible During the Games. According to a man with relatives in Sochi, residents there are having a hard time. “Undoubtedly, not everything [in Sochi] is bad. A great deal good and necessary has been done,” he says, but only at a high cost to the residents of “the Olympic reservation.” He adds that he “wants to wish all of them the ability to survive [the Olympics] and not lose their sense of humor … In comparison with the years of Olympic insanity behind them, [the time ahead] is a small thing indeed. But they have to be lived through a well” (privetsochi.ru/blog/sochi2014/40130.html).
Public Protest Prompts Sochi Authorities to Cart Away One Trash Heap. Sochi residents have long been infuriated by the willingness of Olympic contractors to ignore the law and dump trash wherever they like. Over the past six months, there have been more protests about this than about almost any other issue. Now, for almost the first time, Sochi residents can claim a small victory: Officials have responded and carted away one trash heap, although they have done nothing about the many other and some suspect that contractors will again dump their construction waste in the same spot that has been cleared (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/236103/).
More Bad Weather Threatens Sochi’s Power Lines. High winds and cold weather in the coming days is likely to harm Sochi’s electricity network, according to city officials. In addition, it is likely to slow construction as well (http://sochiadm.ru/press-sluzhba/25331/).
German Skier Say Russia Should Never Have Been Awarded the Games. German skier Felix Neureuther says that “Russia should not have been chosen as the host of the 2014 Winter Olympics because of its poor human rights record,” according to GaystarNews. “It’s not right,” he said after winning a World Cup slalom competition in Italy. “The guys from the IOC should think about where to put the Olympic Games. It’s not right to give the Olympic Games to places where they are giving the most money. It should be about the sport, in nations where there is passion” (gaystarnews.com/article/german-skier-felix-neureuther-latest-criticize-russian-gay-propaganda-ban070114).
Circassians Release Two Feature Films about Genocide in Advance of Sochi. Circassians in the United States and Turkey have produced two full-length feature films about the history of their nation, including the genocide their ancestors suffered at the hands of the Russian military in Sochi in 1864. In addition, they have stepped up their campaign to call attention to the disrespect that holding the Olympiad on the site of mass graves represents (pdl.vimeocdn.com/72817/595/197982263.mp4?token=1389121906_b5d30feb3c599157fabc7bdb101021a0 and youtube.com/watch?v=4CYb-Y01GqM&feature=youtube_gdata_player).
Circassian Says World Leaders Should Not Go to Sochi Because of Genocide. Abubekir Murzakanov, the president of the Adyge Khekuh Circassian National Movement, has issued a public appeal to the leaders of the world calling on them to refuse to go to Sochi because of the genocide that Russians committed there against the Circassians in 1864. Genocide, he notes, is “a crime against humanity” far more serious than any other form of discrimination (facebook.com/groups/antisochi/permalink/652228411486573/).
Circassians Angry about Russian Failure to Acknowledge Their History in Sochi. Circassian activists in the North Caucasus and the diaspora say Russian organizers have almost completely ignored the history of the Circassian nation in Sochi, despite simple justice and the requirements of the Olympic Charter. Some say that organizers have devoted far less than one percent of their propaganda about the cultural background of the region to the Circassians whose capital Sochi once was (facebook.com/naima.neflyasheva?hc_location=timeline, January 3).
Russian Journalist Implicitly Recognizes Circassian Genocide. Russian journalist Yuliya Latynina’s statement that “Russians are genetically predisposed ot genocide” represents an implicit recognition of the genocide Russians conducted against the Circassians in 1864, according to Murat Pshikanov, a Circassian activist (www.facebook.com/pshikanov).
Western Headlines about Olympiad Increasingly Critical. Headlines like “Are Olympic Visitors Walking iinto a War Zone” and “The Sochi Olympics – the Next Benghazi” reflect increasing criticism in the West of the Sochi Olympiad and especially the security environment of that North Caucasus venue. Such headlines are likely to reduce the number of people likely to travel to the games and may affect how Western governments will react to what is taking place there (news.uk.msn.com/comment-and-analysis/sochi-2014-are-olympic-visitors-walking-into-a-war-zone and video.foxnews.com/v/3019364355001/sochi-olympics-the-next-benghazi/#sp=show-clips).
Bomb Scare Empties Sochi Shopping Mall. When a package labeled “bomb” was found in Sochi’s Sea Mall, the authorities ordered an evacuation, but they determined that the supposed bomb was a fake. No charges against anyone have yet been filed. This event, however, did have the effect of increasing public fears in Sochi and leading many residents to celebrate the New Year’s either at home or outside other enclosed spaces (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/236183/,newsru.com/russia/03jan2014/sochi.html and blogsochi.ru/content/srochnaya-evakuatsiya-iz-trts-moremoll).
Will New Security Rules Allow Russian Postal Workers to Steal More? The introduction of a requirement that all packages addressed to Krasnodar kray during the Olympic period be opened by postal authorities is likely to lead to more theft by employees of that agency. According to some Russian residents, Russian Post is “a branch of the Bermuda triangle on the territory of Russia,” and the new rules will only make that black hole larger (privetsochi.ru/blog/sochi2014/40029.html).
Sochi Games Media Center Twice as Large as Moscow’s Red Square. Reflecting what matters most, the Russian Olympic Committee has opened a 158,000 square meter media ceneter that has space for more than 6500 Russian and foreign journalists (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/236295/).
Will Sochi Become St. Vladimirsburg or VladCity? American analyst John Brown argues that just as St. Petersburg, Vladimir Putin’s native city, was built “in part to be a bulwark against the Swedes int eh 18th century, Sochi can be seen as a possibly misguided realpolitik ‘defense’ against separatism in the Caucasus,” a challenge htat “could spark the flame of the dissolution of the Russian Federaiton.” Given those parallels, he says, Russian officials might well consider renaming Sochi St. Vladimirsburg or VladCity (huffingtonpost.com/john-brown/sochi-vladimirsburg_b_4550761.html).
Sochi Leads Russia in Exploitation of Workers, Labor Activists Say. The mistreatment of workers, including abuses like non-payment of wages earned, in recent months has been worse in Sochi than anywhere else in the Russian Federation, according to labor activists. And despite suggestions to the contrary, Central Asian gastarbeiters have not been the only victims. Many Russian workers have also been mistreated, and the complaints of both have beenignored by corporations and officials (south-worker.com/obman-rabochix-na-olimpijskix-strojkax-v-sochi-stal-sistemoj/).
Krasnodar Officials Said Keeping Out Residents of Daghestan, Chechnya and Ingushetia. Kaoly Akhilgov a lawyer and activist, says that Krasnodar kray officials have begun to prevent residents of Daghestan, Chechnya and Ingushetia, three unstable regions in the North Caucasus, from entering that region without special permission and say they will continue to do so until the Olympics are over. He also says that Ingush officials are advising residents not to travel to Krasnodar without the approval of their own government (habar.org/?p=27432 and kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/236361/).
Manezh Demonstrators Unfurl “No Sochi” Sign at Moscow Demonstration. A Moscow protest in support of those arrested for the May 6 demonstration I the Russian capital included a banner with the slogan “No to the Olympiad.” Police arrested 28 of those taking part (echo.msk.ru/blog/photo_nikita/1233088-echo/ andgrani.ru/Politics/Russia/activism/m.223143.html).
Old Believers’ Cemetery Survives in Sochi Olympic Complex. Although Russian officials have never expressed concern that Olympic construction may disturb the graves of thousands of Circassians who died in Sochi and environs in 1864, they thankfully have not destroyed an Old Believers’ Cemetery that is now surrounded by Olympic venues but remains intact (ru-nsn.livejournal.com/3997626.html).
Sewage Leaks in Sochi Too Widespread and Serious for Local Officials to Correct. Local officials have turned to Moscow for help in blocking the leaks in Sochi’s sewage system that continue to cause smells and spark complaints from local residents. According to officials, there has not been any serious effort to upgrade the sewage sytem since the end of the Soviet Union (http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/236226/).
Old Sochi Sign Says ‘Rossiisky;’ New One Says ‘Russky.’ A non-Russian has called attention to the fact that the original sign for Sochi’s Japanese garden uses the word “rossiisky,” which is a political rather than ethnic term for Russians, while the new sign put up by Olympic organizers uses the term “russky” which is an ethnic rather than political one. “So are we non-ethnic Russians or ethnic ones?! I had thought we had a multi-national country!” (vk.com/blogsochi_ru?w=wall-5042747_41462).
Putin and Lukashenka Play Ice Hockey at Sochi Venue. Russian President Vladimir Putin teamed up with his Belarusian counterpart, Alyaksandr Lukashenka, to play ice hockey against a group of Russian all-stars. Putin and Lukashenka were in red; the all-stars, in white (blogsochi.ru/content/putin-i-lukashenko-sygrali-v-khokkei-v-sochi).
Moscow Made Promises about Sochi But Things Turned Out Like Always, Blogger Says. According to Sochi blogger Valeriy Suchkov, Moscow pledged to liveup to the principles of the Olympic Charter and promote “the harmonious development” of the city, “but in the execution of [the Russian] bureaucrac, any good deed is transformed into its opposite.” So far, the Russian bureaucracy has violated the rights of the city’s residents, destroyed their city, and deprived them of the right to run their own affairs” (blogsochi.ru/content/sochi-demonstratsiya-styda).
Krasnoyarsk Procuracy Opens Hotline for Reports of Rights Abuses. The procuracy of Krasoyarsk kray has set up a hotline for residents and visitors to report abuses of civil and human rights during the Olympics and Paralympics (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/236261/
Sochi Blogger Detained for Writing Down Police Names and ID Numbers. Police in Sochi detained Aleksey Kuzmin, a Sochi blogger, for writing down the names and identification numbers of some of their colleagues. They did so even before the imposition of new stricter security rules on January 7 when in Kuzmin’s words, they were given “carte blanche” to harass everyone and anyone in the region (grani.ru/tags/sochi/m.223126.html).
Moscow has Allowed Most Facilities from 1980 Olympiad to Decay. Given that Moscow has repeatedly insisted that the facilities it has built in Sochi for the Olympiad will be maintained and used for decades to come, several Russians decided to visit the facilities that Moscow built for the 1980 games and see what has happened to those. Their photographs which have been posted on the Internet reveal “a sad picture” of neglect, disuse and decay and suggest that whatever the Russian authorities say, the situation in Sochi a decade from now will be equally “sad” (skif-tag.livejournal.com/1092874.html).
US Olympians Worried about Security at Sochi. In the wake of the Volgograd bombings, US speedskater Tucker Fredericks says that he is “just going to stay in the bubble … go to the oval,and go back to my room. And that’s it.” His teammate Jilleanne Rookard says she hopes that Russia’s desire to avoid “national embarrassment” will provide some protection but told the Associated Press that she is worried about the likelihood that spectators will not hav similar protection. “We worry about our parents, our family, our friends. They’re going to be normal tourists. I’m scared for them” (newsday.com/putin-s-games-could-still-be-compliment-or-curse-1.6734852).
Russian Athletes ‘Trying to Figure Out’ How Best to Use Sochi’s Four Kinds of Snow. Aleksandr Schastnkh, a Russian Olympic skier, says he and his colleagues are studying the four different kinds of snow that will be on the runs in Sochi – incuding 16 million cubic feet of snow saved from last year – so as to have “maximum acceleration” and give Russian athletes the best chance at the games (rt.com/news/sochi-olympic-games-snow-187/).
Moscow Spending 520 Million US Dollars per Event at Sochi, Four Times as Much as Beijing Did. Sports exports say that the two best measures of the cost of the Sochi Olympiad are the one that indicates that the Russian government is spending on average 520 million US dollars on each event, four times as much as the Chinese government did and the other that shows that there has been a cost overrun of 500 percent in the Russian case, almost three times as much as the Olympic average of 180 percent. Such figures compensate, as some others do not, for changes in the number of sports represented in the competitions (deadspin.com/how-the-sochi-olympics-became-a-51-billion-quagmire-1493890966).
Islamist Hacker Group Threatens a Cyber War Against Sochi Games. Anonymous Caucasus, a radical Islamist hacker group that has already broken into the sites of Sberbank and the Bank of Russia, says it will launch a cyber attack on Sochi as part of a broader “Pay-Back for Sochi” campaign to disrupt the competition (backpagelead.com.au/index.php/olympics/11944-the-trouble-with-putins-five-ringed-circus).
LGBT Group Urges German Olympians to Identify Themselves as Members of Sexual Minorities. The Union of Lesbians and Gays of Germany has appealed to members of the German Olympic team to declare themselves to be members of sexual minorities as a way of protesting Moscow’s anti-gay laws and policies (vz.ru/news/2014/1/5/666879.html).
Overstretched, Moscow Using Military for Police Work in North Caucasus. To cope with security challenges that have stretched its police resources to the limit, the Russian government is now using uniformed soldiers as police in Stavropol kray (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/236172/ as discussed in windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2014/01/window-on-eurasia-overstretched-and.html).
Putin’s Constant Visits to Sochi Part of His Effort to Create ‘Simulacrum of a Big Russia.’ Citing Ilf and Petrov’s observation that “parallel to the big worl in which live big people and big things there exists a small world with small people and small things,” commentator Ilya Konstantinov says that President Vladimir Putin’s constant visits to Sochi, visits that are not strictly necessary given that other officials could condct such inspections, are part of the Russian president’s efforts to create “a simulacrum of a Great Russia” (svpressa.ru/blogs/article/80094/).
Snow Leopard, Symbol of Sochi Games, Near Extinction in Russia Because of Poaching. President Vladimir Putin says that the Russian people chose the snow leopard as the mascot for the Sochi Games because it is “strong, powerful, fast and beautiful,” but experts say that there are probably only about 40 of them living in Russia where they have been pushed toward extinction by poachers who sell their skins for 20-30,000 US dollars” in Moscow and Beijing (pri.org/stories/2014-01-02/snow-leopard-sochi-olympics-symbol-near-extinction).
Sochi City Government Alienating Small Business. Despite the fact that small businesses provide 50 percent of the jobs and half of the income of the city, the Sochi city government under Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov has failed to support them, members of the business community say. Worse, he has taken steps that give all the advantages to big firms in advance of the Olympiad. As a result, some small businessmen say, they want him to leave office as soon as possible and are totally alienated from the Olympic effort. One said that “even if [he] were in Sochi during the Olympiad, [he] would watch it only on television” rather than attend any of the competitions (arch-sochi.ru/2012/05/musornaya-politika-sochi-provalena/ andsochinskie-novosti.com/).
Cartoonists Having Field Day with Sochi Games. At the date of the start of the Olympiad approaches, cartoonists both in the Russian Federation and abroad are increasingly focusing on Sochi and in a highly critical manner. For some examples, see the collection of cariacatures atblogsochi.ru/content/karikatury-narisovannye-k-olimpiade-v-sochi and also th cartoon aatfacebook.com/photo.php?fbid=557960370961898&set=a.200485616709377.46743.156326144458658&type=3&theater).
After Olympiad, Sochi to Be Left With Bills It Can’t Pay and Facilities It Can’t Support. Even as many Sochi residents say they will be glad when the Olympiad is over, officials and analysts are pointing to the fact that Sochi faces a horrible future after that: enormous investment requirements in infrastructure like water, electricity and sewer lines which haven’t been fully updated despite the games and which broke down more than 1,000 times last year, the end of tax revenues from Olympic construction firms that will be departing, rapidly falling real estate values and tax revenues, the likelihood of numerous bankruptcies and the tearing down of hotels and other buildings constructed for the Olympics, and the city’s limited ability to expand given its location. As a result, many have concluded that Sochi will decay and relatively rapidly unless it can somehow attract a continuing flow of major international events and competitions to attract outside investment, a flow Russian President Vladimir Putin has pledged to promote but may not be able to sustain (svpressa.ru/society/article/80205/ and /ru.znatock.com/docs/index-38991.html).
WINDOW ON EURASIA: SOCHI COUNTDOWN – 5 WEEKS TO THE OLYMPIAD IN THE NORTH CAUCASUS
Note: This is my 45th 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 firstname.lastname@example.org Allow me to express my thanks to all those who already have. Paul Goble
Volgograd Terrorist Acts Seen Helping Putin Change Focus of Sochi Coverage … “The Volgograd bombings won’t ruin Russia’s Sochi Olympics,”according to commentator Peter Weber. “In fact, [they] may help Vladimir Putin” by allowing him to refocus Western coverge of the games. Up to now, he writes, “Western coverage of the Games has been mixed with protests over Russia’s anti-gay laws. President Obama is pointedly sending over a delegation with two openly gay athletes, for example. Russia is already calling for international solidarity, and if the focus of the Games shifts to thwarting terrorism, history tells us that terrorism threats trump just about every other issue. After all, fighting Islamist terrorists is one of the few things Putin’s Russia and Obama’s America have in common” (theweek.com/article/index/254593/why-the-volgograd-bombings-wont-ruin-russias-sochi-olympics).
… Winning Him Additional Support among Russian Nationalists … In the “Berliner Zeitung,” commentator Ulrich Krökel says that the Volgograd explosions will work to Putin’s advantage inanother way: they will allow him to play up the nationalist themes he has been using in recent months and win more support from ethnic Russians against others. But he notes that “despite and perhaps maybe because Putin is a anatic about security, [Russia] is not a stable country.” Instead, “Russia’s multi-national society is held in check exclusively by the power apparatus and raw materials wealth” (inopressa.ru/article/30Dec2013/inotheme/volgograd_obzor.html).
… And Setting Stage for Moscow to Denounce Domestic Opponents as Backers of Terrorism and Those Foreign Leaders Who Don’t Come as Cowards. In “Yezhednevny zhurnal,” Russian commentator Aleksandr Ryklin says that the Kremlin will use the Volgograd violence both domestically and internationally. It will “call those who refuse to come to our Games cowards … and label the internal opposition which has called for one or another kind of boycott of the Olympic Games in Sochi as accomplices of the terrorists” (ej.ru/?a=note&id=24114).
Volgograd Bombings Highlight Terrorist Risks and Shortcomings in Russian Approach. Commentators in Russia and abroad said that the Volgograd bombings not only had undercut Putin’s charm offensive against the West but called attention both to the difficulties of combatting terrorist actions by small groups of people and shortcomings in the Russian effort. Several observers suggested that the terrorists were clearly more “professional” in their actions than the Russian security services, that the FSB had lost too many good people to retirement in recent years, that Russian officials had been slow to introduce effective security checks at transportation facilities,and that, as a result, more attacks can be expected in the future. At the same time, there was general agreement in both Russia and the West that the attacks were linked to the North Caucasus and timed to affect Sochi (tbo.com/ap/russian-suicide-bombings-raise-concern-over-sochi-olympics-20131230/, kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/236053/, kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/236053/, washingtonpost.com/world/second-bombing-in-two-days-hits-volgograd-in-southern-russia-32-dead-in-the-two-attacks/2013/12/30/69ae1c1c-7140-11e3-8def-a33011492df2_story.html?wprss=rss_world, rferl.org/content/terrorism-olympics-russia-sochi/25215761.htmlhttp://izvestia.ru/news/563135).
Recent Security Exercise in Sochi Far From Successful, MVD Sources Say. The recent security exerecise in Sochi failed to stop 25 of the 48 people posing as terrorists from carrying out their missions, according to Sergey Ogurtsov, deputy head of the Sochi interior ministry administration. That failure, according to a local journalist, highlighted how relatively easy it would be for someone to carry out a terrorist attack, despite everything that Moscow has done. The one thing the security exercise did do, that journalist said, was to expel many of the migrant workers who had been in the city. Indeed, Semen Simonov, coordinator of the Migration and Law network in Sochi, “many of the measures taken are not very effective for capturing terrorists but they do harm the interests, rights, and freedoms of citizens” (kavpolit.com/antiterror-i-olimpiada-gde-slaboe-zveno/).
Moscow has Already Spent 2.5 Billion US Dollars on Sochi Security As of June 2013, Russian analyst Sergey Markedonov says, the Russian government had spent 2.5 billion US dollars on security in Sochi. Before the games are over, it will undoubtedly spend even more, with this line item alone being as large or larger than the total amount spent for most past winter Olympiads. At the same time, Markedonov adds, Moscow has been constrained somewhat in the security area lest its measures in this area become the story of the Sochi games (caucasustimes.com/article.asp?id=21229).
Volgograd Attacks Point to Mistake of Awarding Olympics to Sochi, Satter Says.David Satter, an expert on Russia, says that “the terrorist attacks in Volgograd on December 29 and 30 are an ominous sign that the decision to hold the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi may lead to one of the greatest catastrophes in the history of the Olympics. The first danger is from the terrorists. In addition to the danger from terrorists, however, there is also a danger from the Russian forces. As past experience shows, in a hostage situation, the Russians will make no effort to spare innocent lives. Because of the irresponsibility of the Olympic Committee in indulging Putin’s desire for a propaganda spectacular, the stage may now be set for there to be many more” (edition.cnn.com/2013/12/31/opinion/opinion-russia-terror-sochi/index.html?hpt=hp_t2).
Russian Olympic Committee Sees No Need for More Security at Sochi. Russian Olympic Committee chief Alexander Zhukov says that despite the terrorist attacks in Volgograd, Moscow has already taken “all necessary security measures” in Sochi and that “extra security measures … will not be taken.” He mentioned that the new fan passports will allow for both security and convenience (interfax.ru/sport/news/349666,en.rsport.ru/olympics/20131230/711762565.html, ng.ru/news/453960.html anden.rsport.ru/olympics/20131230/711762565.html).
IOC’s Bach Condemns Volgograd Attacks, Expresses Confidence in Sochi Security. In a statement released after the two bombings in Volgograd, Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, expressed his “condolences to the Russian people,” adding that he is “certain that everything will be done to ensure the security of the athletes and all the participants of the Olympic Games … This is a despicable attack on innocent people and the entire Olympic movement joins me in utterly condemning this cowardly act. Our thoughts are with the loved ones of the victims” (en.rsport.ru/olympics/20131230/711831447.html,usatoday.com/story/sports/olympics/2013/12/30/sochi-winter-games-bombings-russia-putin-security-ioc/4248745/ and craveonline.com/sports/articles/623711-sochi-olympics-2014-bombings-question-safety).
US Government and Olympic Committee Offer ‘Full Support’ to Moscow After Volgograd Bombings. American officials and the US Olympic Committee offered their “full support to the Russian government in security preparations for the Sochi Olympic Games” and said they “would welcome the opportunity for closer cooperation for the safety of the athletes, spectators, and other participants.” US officials said that they have had “extensive contacts” with their Russian counterparts over Sochi security, adding that Washington has taken “lots of security precautions” of its own regarding the games(usatoday.com/story/sports/olympics/2013/12/30/sochi-winter-games-bombings-russia-putin-security-ioc/4248745/, kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/236071/ andreuters.com/article/2013/12/30/us-usa-russia-olympics-idUSBRE9BT0KL20131230).
Moscow ‘Not Really Concerned’ US President Isn’t Coming to Sochi. Aleksandr Zhurkov, head of the Russian Olympic Committee, said that his group is “not really concerned” that President Barack Obama has decided not to attend the Sochi Olympiad. The Olympics, Zhukov said, “are the competition of outstanding sportmen and this is the main reason why they are interesting. It’s not a summit which only the country leaders attend. So we’re not really concerned about it” (worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/12/26/22060000-russia-not-really-concerned-about-obamas-absence-from-sochi-olympics?lite).
More than 20 European Leaders Will Be at Sochi, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Says. Vladimir Titov, Russia’s first deputy foreign minister, says that “it is already clear that more than 20 European countries will be represented in [Sochi] at the level of chief of state or head of government as well as royalty.” He added that plans for bilateral meetings are still being “formulated” (ria.ru/interview/20131231/987383131.html).
Everything is ‘Ready’ for Olympiad and Security is ‘Guaranteed,’ Russia Today Says. Those who rely on the Russia Today television channel were told on New Year’s Day that “everything is ready for the Olympic Games in Sochi” and that “security will be guaranteed for all athletes and guests” who attend (blogsochi.ru/content/russia-today-v-sochi-vse-gotovo-k-olimpiiskim-igram and
Russian Prime Minister ‘Not Sure’ Olympics will Go Smoothly. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medveev says that he is certain that everything will in fact be ready for the opening of the Sochi Olympiad on February 7, but he added that “to tell you the truth, I’m not sure that everything will be ideal and smooth.” At the same time, he suggested that he doesn’t “think we’ll have the worst variant” and that he doesn’t “have any concerns about the Olympics” (en.ria.ru/sochi2014/20131228/185992398/Medvedev-Not-Sure-of-Smooth-Sochi-Olympics.html).
‘Overly Tight’ Security at Sochi Leading Terrorists to Attack Elsewhere, British Expert Says. Matthew Clements, an analyst at HIS Country Risk in London, says that Moscow has devoted so much attention to increasing security at Sochi that it has lessened its control over other regions As a result, as the attacks in Volgograd show, terrorists are exploiting that situation and launching attacks elsewhere (vedomosti.ru/politics/news/20996311/ft-terakty-v-volgograde-podorvali-doverie-k-obespecheniyu#ixzz2pBJ7J9Gg).
With Sochi, Putin Trying but Failing to Re-Brand Russia and Himself, US Paper Says. The Chicago Tribune says in an editorial that “Putin may have thought hosting the Olympics would boost his stature in Russia and elsewhere. The actual effect, though, has been to focus more attention on his thin skin, contempt for Western values and unquenchable need for control. So even his gesture of charity toward the prisoners he freed merely underscored the arbitrary, secretive nature of his rule, while reminding everyone that those people should never have been jailed in the first place.The Winter Olympics could have been Putin’s opportunity to show the world a country far more humane, democratic and open than it was when the Soviet Union hosted the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow. Instead, he is likely to face protests, overt or oblique, by athletes and spectators. He will find foreign news media examining how he steered Russia off the democratic path it took after the collapse of communism.Unlike the regime that held power in 1980, Putin has avoided a mass boycott of the festivities by other nations. But he won’t avoid a spotlight that reminds the world of his abuses” (chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/editorials/ct-russia-putin-olympics-0102-20140102,0,2986892.story ).
Don’t Cancel Sochi Games but Move the Competitions Elsewhere, US Columnist Urges. Philip Hersh, a sports columnist for the Chicago Tribune, offers a creative solution for getting around “the problem of having the Winter Games in a hard-to-reach locale with a subtropical climate, repression of gay rights, obscene spending (and related corruption), environmental despoilment and human rights abuses of its residents. And, oh yes, apparently serious threats to disrupt the Games by nationalist insurgents — aka terrorists — from nearby Chechnya. (Not to mention Dagestan, Abkhazia and South Ossetia.)” The answer, he says, “isn’t to cancel the Olympics. And it’s too late to move them en masse. I have another idea: Stage them — and the Paralympics — over the regularly scheduled time period in manageable pieces at some of the cities or countries that have been previous Winter Olympic hosts, many of which have World Cup competitions every year. Because 99 percent of the world consumes the Olympics via television, some people may not even notice the difference … To those who say this would be giving in to terrorists, my reply simply would be that it is, rather, an 11th-hour return to sanity after the misguided International Olympic Committee decision in 2007 to indulge Putin’s folly. This is how my 2014 Olympics would play out: The opening and closing ceremonies can stay in Sochi. In lieu of athletes, the thousands of military who would be on hand can march into the stadium, which will be filled with all the friends of Putin who have gotten rich off the Games.Is this a joke? No less so than the idea to give the 2014 Winter Olympics to Sochi in the first place” (chicagotribune.com/sports/chi-a-lesson-plan-to-spare-the-olympics-from-sochi-20140101,0,3859512.column).
FSB Approach to Sochi Security, ‘Questionable at Best,’ Soldatov Says. Andrey Soldatov, editor of Agentura.ru and Russia’s leading independent analyst on that country’s security services, “the way in which the Russian secret services [are] responding to the threat looks questionable at the very least.” Instead of putting counter-terrorist experts in charge of the effort, the FSB has put its “main spy hunter.” Moreover, Soldatov says, “it seems the Russian secret services do not understand that maintaining control over everyone and everything (essentially the idea inherited from the Soviet past) and preventing a terrorist attack are far from being the same thing” (telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/russia/10544470/Russia-terror-analysis-Volgograd-and-an-Olympics-under-threat.html).
Businessweek Documents ‘Waste and Corruption’ of Putin’s Games. In the current issue of
“Businessweek,” Joshua Yaffa documents what he calls “the waste and corruption of Vladimir Putin’s 2014 Winter Olympics,” including paying off Putin’s friends, massive kickbacks, poor planning and mafia-like interactions of the players, government and non-government alike. At the same time, he concludes that Sochi is, in the words of one of those he interviewed, hardly unique. “You will see the same thing, maybe even more,” elsewhere in Putin’s Russia. Indeed, his interlocutor said, “Sochi is just what is happening in Russia everywhere” (businessweek.com/articles/2014-01-02/the-2014-winter-olympics-in-sochi-cost-51-billion).
“Businessweek,” Joshua Yaffa documents what he calls “the waste and corruption of Vladimir Putin’s 2014 Winter Olympics,” including paying off Putin’s friends, massive kickbacks, poor planning and mafia-like interactions of the players, government and non-government alike. At the same time, he concludes that Sochi is, in the words of one of those he interviewed, hardly unique. “You will see the same thing, maybe even more,” elsewhere in Putin’s Russia. Indeed, his interlocutor said, “Sochi is just what is happening in Russia everywhere” (businessweek.com/articles/2014-01-02/the-2014-winter-olympics-in-sochi-cost-51-billion).
Russian Officials Collecting Detailed Information from and about Activists. Activists in Sochi and adjoining parts of the North Caucasus have been complaining for the last several weeks that security officials, working from a list, are forcing anyone that the Russian government deems unreliable to provide detailed information about themselves and their activities between now and the end of the Sochi Games. This week, more information about the list became available in a report by Olga Loginova in “Nezavisimaya gazeta.” She writes that “criminal investigation departments have required those considered inclined to engage in extremist activities to provide detailed information and subject themselves to official supervision” To aid the authorities, such people are required to show up at police stations and provide information about any special physical characteristics, information on drug use, and data about their organizational affiliations (ng.ru/regions/2013-12-27/1_sochi.html and sobkorr.ru/news/2/52BD2F6BB5724.html).
Olympic Torch has a Better Week. Only one serious incident involving the Olympic torch was reported this holiday week. In Samara, after one torch would not light the next one, a man lit the new torch with a lighter and then the torch burned out of control. It was thrown to the ground, smothered by a blanket of some kind, and a replacement torch was found and ignited by a lighter. Meanwhile, prices for a torch on Internet sites continued to rise, reaching 300,000 rubles (10,000 US dollars) in some cases, and officials along the route took the opportunity to buy torches for 12,800 rubles (400 US dollars), perhaps in the hopes of making a quick profit (http://www.echo.msk.ru/blog/echomsk/1226655-echo/, privetsochi.ru/blog/humor/39830.html and vesti-sochi.tv/olimpiada/22025-glava-chuvashii-vykupil-svoj-olimpijskij-fakel).
Many in North Caucasus Expect Crackdown, Even New War, After Sochi. People in the North Caucasus say that they fear Moscow will become even more repressive after the Olympiad when international attention will shift away from their region and that the Russian government may even launch a new war (vz.ru/columns/2013/12/27/666377.html,svpressa.ru/blogs/article/79845/ and http://svpressa.ru/politic/article/79817/).
‘YMCA’ Writer Won’t Object to Use of Song at Sochi Victor Willis, the original lead singer of Village People and author of the lyrics for its 1978 hit, says that although it was not “written as a song for the gay community,” if that community “want to use the song that way, go right ahead,” although he said that he would not perform it himself. Some LGBT activists have called for using it as a protest anthem at the Sochi Games (insidethegames.biz/olympics/winter-olympics/2014/1017652-y-m-c-a-writer-does-not-want-song-to-become-anti-gay-protest-anthem-of-sochi-2014).
Olympic Athletes Concerned about Sochi Security After Volgograd. US speedskater Jilleanne Rookard said that she is “scared [Russia’s] security may be involved [in the violence]. I don’t know if Inecessarily trust their security forces I’m sure they want to save their image and their pride” Swedish hockey player Johan Franzen said that now “the security will be higher [in Sochi] than they intended from the start” (thetranscript.com/localsports/ci_24825233/2014-sochi-games-athletes-wary-threats).
Australia May Not Send Its Athletes to Sochi Because of Security Threats. Julie Bishop, Australia’s foreign minister, says that Canberra may not allow its Olympic team to go to Sochi because of its concerns about security there. The Australian Olympic Committee has already announced that because of security concerns, “None of [Australia’s] athletes will be traveling to or from Sochi by car, bus or train (all will be traveling by air); none will be training or competing outside of Sochi in Russia; and none will be holidaying elsewhere in Russia after the Games” (latimes.com/travel/deals/la-trb-australia-sochi-olympics-safety-20131231,0,4025327.story#axzz2pKdqRwA9, theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/policy/chance-of-travel-ban-for-sochi-says-julie-bishop/story-fn59nm2j-1226792220281#mm-premium andkavkazcenter.com/russ/content/2013/12/30/102542.shtml).
Amnesties All about Improving Russia’s Image Before Sochi, Russian Commentators Say. Moscow’s recent amnesties do not represent any “thaw” in Russian politics but are all part of a broader effort to improve Russia’s image in advance of the Sochi Olympiad, according to three leading Russian commentators with whom the Nakanune.ru news agency spoke (nakanune.ru/articles/18481/ ).
Sochi is ‘Opposite of What an Olympic City Should Be,’ Italian Athlete Says. Federica Brignone, an Italian skier, says that Sochi is “the opposite of what an Olympic city should be,” that it “lacks the Olympic spirit,” and that security measures have put a damper on the way in which athletes and fans interact. “To put it in simplest terms,” she said, one can say that as an athletic venue, “Sochi … is a ghost city built in an empty space, ugly and without residents, memory or freedom” (inopress.ru/article/31Dec2013/repubblica/sochi.html).
‘Welcome to Sochi’ Artist Now Preparing Olympic Calendar ‘with Erotic Subtext.’ Vasily Slonov, who attracted international attention for his “Welcometo Sochi-2014” series of posters, now says he is preparing an Olympic calendar “with an erotic subtext” as a way to attract even more attention and to criticize Moscow’s anti-gay policies (globalsib.com/19115/).
Olympic Spending Now Affecting Russia’s Banking Sector. The amount of money Moscow has been spending in preparation for the Sochi Olympics is affecting ever more sectors of Russian life, according to a Russian analyst, forcing cutbacks in spending on a variety of projects and now hitting the banking sector, both directly and as a result of concerns that Russian banks may face even larger problems ahead if Sochi’s costs go up and the Russian economy continues to stagnate or deteriorate (apn.ru/publications/article30829.htm).
Sovkhoz ‘Rossiya’ a Metonym for the Problems of Sochi and Russia. The residents of Sovkhoz “Rossiya,” the last population point before the Olympic Park, face a concentration of all the problems that other residents of the Olympic city and indeed much of Russia now face: bad roads and sidewalks, regular power and water outages, many the result of Olympic construction, sewage lines that are either badly connected or not connected at all, terrible smells, the destruction of much of the beach and green spaces, and a sense that officials are totally uninterested in doing anything about the problems of the people (kavpolit.com/chto-poluchila-rossiya-ot-olimpiady/).
Illegal Construction Waste Sites Grow and Multiply in Sochi. Sochi residents continue to find new trash heaps, all of them illegal and a threat to public health, the result of illegal dumping by Olympic contractors and the failure of the authorities to enforce the law. Several groups of citizens have organized protests and officials have promised to help but so far there is little evidence of any improvement (blogsochi.ru/content/svalka-imeni-morisa-toreza, kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/236103/ and blogsochi.ru/content/pensionery-poobeshchali-perekryt-ulitsu-trebuya-ot-mestnykh-vlastei-ubrat-musor).
Olympic Construction Leads to Massive Power Outages in Sochi. Some 2,000 Sochi residents were left without power after Olympic contractors mistakenly cut through a major electric line, the latest example of such accidents and a problem that seems to be increasing as the contractors cut corners to try to finish the construction that Moscow officials insist is already finished (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/235979/ and kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/235896/).
Olympic Contractors Repeatedly Tear Up Roads and Sidewalks. Sochi residents have watched as contractors dig up roads and highways, then repave them,and then dig them up again because there does not seem to be any plan to install infrastructure all at once and then pave once and for all. As a result, the roads are poorly installed, leading to the formation of huge sinkholes dangerous for cars and people alike, dust and mud are regular features of life in the city, and many residents cannot get to school or work because the roads are obstacles rather than pathways (privetsochi.ru/blog/sitiproblem/39876.html,privetsochi.ru/blog/bred_sochi/39824.html
Raw Sewage Flowing into Streets, Rivers and Black Sea. Because sewage lines have either been improperly installed or not installed at all, raw sewage with all the smells and dangers to health and the environment it involves is flowing into the streets, rivers, and even the Black Sea in the Sochi region. The situation appears to have gotten worse as construction has been speeded up in recent weeks (blogsochi.ru/content/kanalizatsiya-po-ulitse-krasnaya and
Sochi Officials Close Public Markets Before Opening Promised New One. Officials have closed several publc markets, possibly to enhance security but leaving Sochi residents with few choices to buy food, long before the new and more modern market the officials have promised to open later this year (privetsochi.ru/blog/bred_sochi/39817.html).
No Insulin Available for Sochi Residents. Sochi pharmacies have run out of insulin, leaving the city’s numerous diabetics at high risk of illness or even death. Some of them are asking who is responsible but so far have received no answer. In general, health care facilities for residents have deteriorated even as officials have promised world-class medical care for Olympic visitors (privetsochi.ru/blog/Wailing_wall/39761.html andprivetsochi.ru/blog/med_sochi/39772.html).
Situation of Sochi Residents So Dire that Human Rights Watch Speaks in Their Defense. As a result of Olympic construction, Sochi residents have been left without power, heat, water, road access, and sanitation but with massive and illegal trash heaps and impassable streets and roads, a situation that has prompted Human Rights Watch to speak out on their behalf. The organization’s Jane Buchanan said she was doing so because local officials were either ignoring the problem altogether or taking steps to suppress those who were calling attention to it (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/236054/).
Sochi Mayor Admits to Being Involved with ‘Catastrophically Great Work’… Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov who has angered city residents for his failures to protect them against the depradatios of Olympic construction admits that over the past five years he has been involved in “catastrophically great work,” an admission that says more than he perhaps intended. He says road problems have been solved but that difficulties with electricity, water and heat remain (sochinskie-novosti.com/ /).
… Says He’ll Run for Re-Election … Despite polls showing that two out of three Sochi residents don’t trust him, Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov says he will run for another term – or as Blogsochi.ru put it, “threatens” residents with more of the same (blogsochi.ru/content/zhitelyam-sochi-grozit-vtoroi-srok-anatoliya-pakhomova and kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/235837/).
… But Dismantles Much-Criticized New Year’s Tree. After the city New Year’s tree, an artificial one covered with pictures of real flowers, became the object of ridicule, Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov for once has backed down and removed the pictures, putting up more normal lights. But the mayor may have made the situation worse by saying at a press conference “how difficult” he found it to take this decision (blogsochi.ru/content/anatolii-pakhomov-o-%C2%ABchudo-yudo%C2%BB-elke-vozle-ofisa-gk-%C2%ABolimpstroi%C2%BB).
Sochi Resident Wants to Know If He Can Have Foreigners in His Home. One Sochi resident has asked Privetsochi.ru whether it is possible to have “foreigners (not from the near abroad) in their homes.” The blog responded that one must “temporarily register” the foreigner as being at your address and keep the registration certificate (privetsochi.ru/blog/Flood/39908.html).
PrivetSochi Says New Law Makes It Impossible for Blog to Announce Some Meetings. A new measure signed into law by President Vladimir Putin imposing criminal penalties not only on those who submit a news item about an upcoming meeting that may have goals the authorities do not approve of but also on the site itself means that the blog will be far more cautious than it has in publishing such announcements (privetsochi.ru/blog/sochi_site/39903.html).
Demolition of Caucasus Riviera Complex Won’t Be Completed Before Olympiad. The demolition of the Caucasus Rivier complex will be suspended during the Olympics because work crews will not be able to finish the job before the games begin. (http://www.sochinskie-novosti.com/).
For Security, Russian Post Announces Restrictions on Mail to Sochi. From now until March 31, the Russian postal authorities will require that anyone sending a package to Sochi, the surrounding Krasnodar kray, and the Aygey Republic bring it unopened to a post office. The authorities have also published a new list of banned items, including among other things firearms, explosives, and cash(russianpost.ru/rp/press/ru/home/newscompany/item?newsid=8156 and russianpost.ru/rp/servise/ru/home/postuslug/goodslist).
Russian Efforts to Suppress Environmentalists in Sochi Diverse and Longstanding. Russian officials have devoted particular attention to blocking the work of Ecological Watch on the North Caucasus in large part it appears because the group has not only exposed massive violations of environmental laws and commitments during Olympic construction but also reported on the ways that officials from Vladimir Putin on down have done whatever they want to make their own vacation residences there meet their needs. This official campaign to “neutralize” EWNC is chronicled in the organization’s annual report at ewnc.org/node/13366.
Vitishko Appeals Three-Year Sentence, Gains More Suppport. Yevgeny Vitishko, an EWNC activist, has appealed his three-year sentence and remains out of jail while the appeal proceeds. There have been demonstrations on his behalf in numerous Russian cities and abroad. In Sochi itself, he gave a press conference,which had to be kept secret until the last minute to prevent the Russian security services from blocking it that attracted a large group of journalists from other countries (ewnc.org/node/13362 http://ewnc.org/node/13347, ewnc.org/node/13342 and newizv.ru/society/2013-12-27/194926-ot-olimpiady-podalshe.html).
Four EWNC Activists Detained but Released Unbowed. Four Ecological Watch on the North Caucasus activists, Aleksey Mandrigelya, Anna Mikhailova, Tatyana Borisova, and Valentina Borisova, were arrested and held for 24 hours apparently because they were continuing the group’s investigation of an illegal fence that Governor Aleksandr Tkachev has had erected around his property on public land. They were kept in horrific conditions but on their release on January 1 were unbowed and carried a sign indicating that for the environment 2014 is already 1937 (facebook.com/notes/environmental-watch-on-north-caucasus/four-more-activists-victims-of-governors-illegal-fence/10152193277163833 http://ewnc.org/node/13352 and
Berlin Protesters Call for Recognition of Circassian Genocide and Boycott of Sochi Games. Members of the Circassian-Russian Union for Justice, joined by Kurdish, Israeli, Daghestani and Turkish activists, organzed a demonstration in front of Berlin’s Russian House of Science and Culture to demand the right of return for Circassians, international recognition of the Circassian genocide, the restoration of a Circassian state in the North Caucasus, and an end of racism and xenophobia in the Russian Federation. Some of those taking part carried signs calling for a boycott of the Sochi Olympiad (kwas-1972.livejournal.com/708775.htmland facebook.com/groups/CircassiansGenocideSurvivors/permalink/564224573657327/).
FSB May Stage Terrorist Provocation at Sochi, Circassian National Movement Warns. The Circassian National Movement says that it fears the FSB will carry out a “mega-terrorist action in Sochi” in order to place the blame on the Circassians and thus justify in the eyes of some further repression of the Circassian nation. It says Circassians oppose all such violence and support only “civilized methods of struggle” (freecircassia.ucoz.com/news/oficialnoe_zajavlenie_cherkesskogo_nacionalnogo_dvizhenija/2013-12-17-352).
Coca-Cola Puts Up, Then Takes Down Pictures of Those Protesting Its Sochi Sponsorship. LGBT activists were surprised when Coca-Cola posted pictures of some of those who have staged protests against the company for its sponsorship of the Olympics given Moscow’s anti-gay policies, but they were equally surprised when they discovered that “the photographs have now disappeared” from the company’s website (pinknews.co.uk/2013/12/30/coca-cola-deletes-photos-of-gay-rights-protest-against-its-sochi-2014-sponsorship/).
Volgograd Blasts Latest of 32 Terrorist Incidents Involving Fatalities in 2013. The Kavkaz-Uzel.ru news agency says that the two terrorist incidents in Volgograd bring to 32 the number of such incidents involving one or more deaths in the North Caucasus over the last year. It notes that “many experts have more than once spoken about the danger of possible terrorist acts of extremists directed at guests and participants of the 2014 Games” (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/235965/).
Memorial Issues Special Report on Instability in the North Caucasus. The Memorial Human Rights Center has issued a new book assembling its quarterly reports on the North Caucasus since 2009. Prepared by Memorial’s OlegOrlov, the book, entitled “Three Years of ‘Stability,’” in fact highlights the continuing instability in the region. According to Memorial’s head, Aleksandr Cherkashov, there are now “two ‘authors’” of what is taking place there: “the armed underground and the Russian federal authorities which are carrying out a policy of struggle with the band formations” (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/235973/).
Bookings at Sochi Hotels Lag Behind Predictions, Officials Say. The Sochi Organizing Committee was expected to rent 3,000 rooms at hotels in Sochi for the events, but to date, it has reserved only 613, just one of the reasons why overall bookings at many but far from all hotels in the Olympic city currently lag what had been projected As a result, at least some hotel owners are considering converting their rooms to condominiums and offering them for sale while attention is focused on the city. (bfm.ru/news/240247?doctype=article).
Blogger Suggests Olympic Torch in Sochi is Giving the World the Finger. In a post on Blogsochi.ru, one writer says that whatever Moscow intended, the Olympic torch that will stay lit during the games represents in his mind what can only be “our response to the world according to Freud” (blogsochi.ru/content/nash-otvet-miru-po-freidu).
FMS Office Open Only One Hour Each Work Day for Migrants to Register. In yet another move clearly intended to force gastarbeiters to leave Sochi, the Federal Migration Service has opened the office such workers must visit to gain registration only one hour each working day. According to Blogsochi.ru, the lines are long and many of those in them are extremely frustrated (blogsochi.ru/content/ufms-%E2%80%93-khozhdenie-po-mukam-prodolzhaetsya).
Handicapped Face Dangers in Sochi. Despite Moscow’s pledge to ensure that the Olympics will be accessible to all persons with physical handicaps, a requirement of getting the Games, activists in Sochi have documented that in many places, the special strips designed to warn the blind that they are at the edge of a road or rail line are so poorly attached that they are coming off. According to one, “if someone without good eyesight tries to rely on them, he could become an invalid confined to a wheelchair” (blogsochi.ru/content/taktilnye-polosy-v-olimpiiskom-sochi and http://blogsochi.ru/content/dostupnaya-sreda%E2%80%A6-otkleilas).
After the Games, Sochi Makes Plan for Becoming a ‘Resort without Tourists.” Because its projected income will fall faster than its projected expenses, the Sochi city government is planning to sell off some of its property beginning as early as later this year. In addition, in looking to the future, the city is planning to fundamentally revise its current general plan given that it is going to be, in the words of officials, “a resort without tourists” (sochinskie-novosti.com/ and sochinskie-novosti.com/).
Unpaid for Two Months, Sochi Workers Take to the Streets. A group of workers who have been preparing Sochi for the Olympics has gone into the streets to demand that their corporate employers pay them what they are owed. Many have not been paid for two months. Others have appealed to prosecutors and the police, but the latter refused to accept their declarations (blogsochi.ru/content/v-sochi-rabochim-gotovivshim-gorod-k-olimpiade-2-mesyatsa-ne-platyat-zarplatu and www.sochinskie-novosti.com/ ).
Circassian Genocide of 1864 Recounted in National Geographic. The January issue of “National Geographic” provides a chilling retelling of the Circassian genocide of 1864. “The Circassians made their last stand in the small canyon that is now called Krasnaya Polyana,” one of the Sochi Olympiad venues. “After their surrender in 1864 the Circassians were expelled, and refugees died by the thousands on their way to Sochi. Survivors were shipped to various corners of the Ottoman Empire. Some of them died aboard the Turkish vessels, cast overboard into the Black Sea” (ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2014/01/sochi-russia/forrest-text?rptregcta=reg_free_np&rptregcampaign=20131016_rw_membership_n1p_intl_ot_w#).
Sochi Ethnographic Museum Focuses on Circassians and Those Who Displaced Them. The museum contains some 1,000 items on the Shapsugs, a sub-group of the Circassian nation and its millennia in the region, but also on the history of the culture of the various nationalities who arrived after the Circassians were expelled from the region in 1864. It is possible that Russian officials will point to the existence of this museum as evidence that they are not ignoring the Circassian issue during the games, although Circassians say that the museum itself is more about anthropology than history and contains little or nothing about the tragedies their nation has suffered over the last two hundred years at the hands of Russian forces (facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=691450694232531&id=192171867493752).