An IOC member "has criticized Russia's handling of the Sochi Winter Olympics," according to the MOSCOW TIMES. Int'l Ski Federation President and Swiss IOC member Gian-Franco Kasper said that preparations "have been marred by rampant corruption and about one-third of the funds allocated to prepare for the event have been lost to embezzlement." Kasper said corruption appeared to be an "everyday" matter in Russia. Of the approximately $55B that Russia has spent to host the Games, about one-third -- or about $18B -- "has gone to line the pockets of officials or contractors who had access to the funds." Kasper also accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of staging a "PR stunt" by releasing several high-profile political prisoners, like punk band Pussy Riot and Mikhail Khodorkovsky in December, "echoing the wide-spread view that the move was an attempt to bolster the country's image ahead of the Games" (MOSCOW TIMES, 1/10).
U.S. INVOLVEMENT: RIA NOVOSTI reported the FBI "is sending dozens of its personnel to Russia" to help secure the Sochi Olympics. FBI Dir James Comey said that about two dozen agents and other personnel "will be sent to Moscow and more than a dozen others will be based" in Sochi. Some of them "are already there." Comey: "Securing any Olympics is an enormous task. I think it’s particularly challenging in Sochi because of its proximity to areas of unrest and sources of a terrorist threat" (RIA ROVOSTI, 1/10). RT reported Comey "spoke of improved cooperation between Russian and US intelligence officials." Agencies’ cooperation "is nothing new for huge international events like the Olympics, and while a lot of this happens at a classified level of intelligence sharing, it has often been reported in the media about the dispatch of foreign personnel to events in order to assist with security procedures." On Friday, the U.S. State Department "issued a travel alert for Americans planning on attending the winter Olympic Games in Sochi." While no "specific threat" for U.S. citizens is indicated, they "are asked to stay vigilant" (RT, 1/11).
SUSPECTS DETAINED: The AP reported five terror suspects "have been detained" in one of Russia's North Caucasus provinces as the country's security agencies were "scrambling to uproot any potential threat" to the Sochi Games. The raid came in the city of Nalchik, located about 185 miles (300km) east of Sochi. The National Anti-Terrorism Committee said that the suspects "belonged to an international terror group and were in possession of grenades, ammunition and a self-made explosive device" (AP, 1/12).