Russian President Putin Vows To Annihilate Terrorists Following Volgograd Bombings
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday vowed to annihilate all "terrorists" following two deadly bomb attacks in the southern Russian city of Volgograd that raised security fears ahead of the Winter Olympics, acccording to Sergei Karpov of REUTERS. The uncompromising remarks in a televised New Year address "were Putin's first public comments since suicide bombers killed at least 34." Russian Olympic Committee President Alexander Zhukov said that "no more could be done to safeguard the Games since every measure possible was already in place around Sochi, beneath the Caucasus mountains." Acknowledging "problems and serious tests" in '13, including the Volgograd bombings, Putin vowed to ensure the security in the year ahead, when Russia stages the Winter Olympics from Feb. 7-23 (REUTERS, 12/31).
PUTIN PAYS RESPECTS: The AFP's Dmitry Zaks wrote Putin "laid a thick bouquet of red roses on a heap of stuffed toys and flowers assembled at one of the blast locations and exchanged commiserations with bandaged survivors at a hospital in the shell-shocked southern city of Volgograd." He then "convened an urgent pre-dawn meeting of local officials and national security chiefs." Putin: "No matter how the criminals may justify their actions, there is no justification for crimes committed against civilians, especially against women and children" (AFP, 1/2). REUTERS' Sergei Karpov wrote the insurgents said that "they are fighting to carve an Islamic state out of a swath of southern Russia that includes Sochi." In a video posted online in July, their Chechen-born leader called for "maximum force" to prevent Russia from staging the Sochi Games (REUTERS, 1/2).
NEW YEAR'S MESSAGE: XINHUA reported IOC President Thomas Bach insisted Sochi 2014 is for athletic achievements and that "terrorism must never triumph" in his New Year's message. The German condemned the terrorist attacks and said that he trusts the Russian authorities will "deliver a safe and secure Olympic Winter Games for all athletes and all participants" (XINHUA, 1/2). XINHUA also reported China "voiced support for Russia and confidence in security at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics." Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said, "(We) believe that the Russian side can ensure the security and make the Winter Olympics a great success" (XINHUA, 1/1).
SECURITY CONCERNS: The CBC's Gabrielle Tetrault-Farber wrote two terror attacks in the southern Russian city of Volgograd earlier this week "have heightened security concerns for the upcoming Sochi Winter Olympics, jeopardizing one of Vladimir Putin's most cherished objectives." By hosting a successful Olympic Games, Putin "is hoping to demonstrate to the world that Russia is a modern state, one that controls every corner of its vast land." Putin has wanted to show that unrest in the Caucasus, at its height during the two Chechen wars in the mid-to-late '90s, "is a thing of the past." But reality "seems to be intruding" (CBC, 12/30).
VISA EXPRESS: The MOSCOW NEWS reported Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Titov said that foreigners planning to attend the Games "will be able to get Russian visas on the same day they apply." The shortcut "will drastically cut down the waiting time to receive visas to Russia, which normally can take several days and sometimes weeks to process." Titov said that "the same-day visa deal is a temporary window specially created for the Olympics at Russia’s major consulates around the world." Titov: "In those missions abroad, where the volume of visa work isn’t huge, applications for spectators of the Games are accepted outside the [usual] line" (MOSCOW NEWS, 12/31).
TOUR TROUBLE: In N.Y., Jack Nicas wrote tour operators said that "even before the terror attacks in Volgograd, sports fans' concerns about price, logistics, lack of quality lodging and Russia's antigay law have left demand" for the '14 Sochi Games "far below other recent Winter Games." Austin-based Ludus Tours and Chicago-based Sports Traveler said that together they are "bringing roughly a third of the amount of people they brought" to the '10 Vancouver Games. Sports Traveler said that it is "bringing just 50 people to the Sochi Games," compared with about 250 people in '10 and 350 people for the '08 Beijing Games. Sports Traveler Founder & Owner Anbritt Stengele said the Sochi Games have been "by far the most difficult and challenging Olympics for us." She added, "I thought it was going to be interesting because of the location, but the location has turned into a problem because of the cost of getting there and the lack of high-quality lodging" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 12/30).
SPONSORS SPOOKED? AD AGE's Michael McCarthy reported sponsors "won't pull out" of the Games in the wake of the bombings. Foreign Policy Research Institute's Center for the Study of Terrorism co-Chair Edward Turzanski said, "I'd be hard-pressed to understand a sponsor that withdraw their support from the Games. There would be a PR cost to that. You wouldn't be bathing yourself in glory by pulling out." However, McCarthy noted the attacks could "scare off some corporate attendees, cause cancellations of planned events at the Black Sea resort of Sochi, or lead advertisers to channel their event dollars to more arms'-length social or digital marketing around the games" (AD AGE, 12/30).