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SBD Global/January 23, 2014/Olympics

Fake Terrorist Threats Before Winter Games Play On Sochi Security Fears

At least five European countries' Olympic committees and the U.S. received letters in Russian on Wednesday making a "terrorist threat" before the Sochi Games, but Olympic chiefs said they posed no danger, according to Marton Dunai of REUTERS. Despite the assurances, the letters to committees in Italy, Hungary, Germany, Slovenia and Slovakia "briefly caused alarm and underlined nervousness" about security at the $50B event on which Russian President Vladimir Putin's legacy may depend. The U.S. Olympic Committee later confirmed that "it also received a letter by email." Hungary Olympic Committee Int'l Relations Dir Zsigmond Nagy said, "I am very pleased to inform everyone that both the IOC and the Sochi organizing committee ... declared after the analysis of the letter that this threat is not real." Officials in Italy, Germany, Slovakia and Slovenia said that "their national committees had also received threats and all had passed them to police." The IOC, which is based in Switzerland, "moved quickly to ease concern after the first of the letters was received in Budapest." It said that "it took security very seriously and passed on any credible information to the relevant security services." The IOC said, "However, in this case it seems like the email sent to the Hungarian Olympic Committee contains no threat and appears to be a random message from a member of the public" (REUTERS, 1/22). RIA NOVOSTI reported the U.S. and Russia discussed using U.S. technology to combat terrorism at next month’s Winter Olympics in Sochi "amid concerns that extremists could target the games." U.S. Gen. and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Martin Dempsey told his Russian counterpart Gen. Valery Gerasimov that the U.S. "is willing to share technical information on countering improvised explosive devices" prior to the Feb. 7 start of the Sochi games if the American technology is compatible with Russian systems. Dempsey: "I reiterated the fact that we would favorably consider requests from them." Later Tuesday, U.S. President Barack Obama and Putin spoke by telephone and discussed among other issues a "safe and secure Sochi Olympics." A White House statement said Washington "has offered its full assistance" with the Games (RIA NOVOSTI, 1/21). The BBC reported Georgia "has protested after Russia temporarily expanded its Olympic security zone into the breakaway Georgian territory of Abkhazia." It said that Russia had created the new zone, 11km inside Abkhazia, "for the duration of the Winter Olympic Games in nearby Sochi." The Georgian government expressed "deep concern" over the "illegal expansion" (BBC, 1/21). 

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