Scale, Scope Of Russian Bombing Raises Fears Of Terrorism At 2014 Sochi Olympics
A suicide bombing at a railroad station in central Russia killed at least 15 people on Sunday, "raising the specter of a new wave of terrorism" ahead of the 2014 Sochi Olympics, according to Steven Lee Myers of the N.Y. TIMES. The explosion, which officials said was caused by a bomb possibly carried in a bag or backpack, "struck the main railroad station in Volgograd," a city about 550 miles south of Moscow, at 12:45pm local time. Investigative Committee spokesperson Vladimir I. Markin called the bombing "an act of terrorism" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/29). In N.Y., Gregory White reported Russia's Interior Ministry said a police officer at the metal-detector post at the Volgograd train station "was killed when the bomber set off the explosives" as he approached her. Police ordered security "tightened at railroad stations and in cities across the country" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 12/29).
OLYMPIC SECURITY: In London, Womack & Naughton reported the size and death toll of the bombing "emphasises the security challenge" Russian President Vladimir Putin faces in advance of the Winter Olympics. Putin "was immediately informed of the latest explosion, which analysts fear could mark the start of a terror campaign across Russia before the Olympics" (LONDON TIMES, 12/29).
GIVE PEACE A CHANCE: REUTERS' Anishchuk & Gutterman reported most of the 30 people arrested for a Greenpeace protest against Arctic oil drilling "left Russia on Friday under an amnesty" initiated by Putin. The activists' departure, after charges against them were dropped, "removes an irritant in Putin's prickly ties with the West" as Russia prepares to host the Winter Olympics. The demonstrators "had faced up to seven years in jail for a protest at an offshore rig" (REUTERS, 12/27).
MORE SPENDING: The AP reported Russia’s Cabinet "has approved the allocation" of nearly $50M in extra subsidies for the organizers of the Sochi Olympics. The Cabinet’s decision takes the total number of subsidies for the Sochi Organizing Committee "to the equivalent of more than" $420M. Without elaborating, the Cabinet said that the extra money "would help finance the committee’s activities" (AP, 12/25).
NO WEST BOYCOTT: The FINANCIAL TIMES' Christopher Caldwell wrote a piece about why the West hasn't boycotted the Sochi Olympics under the header, "What the public cares about is not politics, but seeing its nation’s athletes compete." Caldwell opined, "For the past year, politicians and activists have been urging the west to use the high visibility of the games to press changes on Russia. Western governments, it turns out, have been grandstanding. The only way to threaten an Olympic host is with a boycott, and the west has more to lose from that than Russia does." He added, "If this is where things wind up resting, then Mr Putin will emerge from Sochi with his image unmarred, and perhaps enhanced. The west, on the other hand, has managed only the feeblest of snubs. Who can name a member of any past Olympic 'delegation?'" Caldwell concluded, "The US president and the vice-president both skipped the Seoul (1988) and the Sydney (2000) Olympics. For that matter, neither Mr Obama nor Mr Biden attended the funeral of Margaret Thatcher last spring" (FT, 12/27).