Terrorism Threatens the Sochi Olympics

by Greg Pollowitz

The IOC is putting on a happy face, but two bombings in two days in the city of Volgograd are a concern. ESPN reports:

IOC President Thomas Bach expressed full confidence Monday that Russian authorities will deliver a “safe and secure” Olympics in Sochi despite the two deadly suicide bombings in southern Russia that heightened concerns about the terrorist threat to the Winter Games.

The International Olympic Committee said Bach wrote to Russian President Vladimir Putin to offer his condolences following the attacks on Sunday and Monday that killed more than 30 people in Volgograd.

A suicide bomber killed 14 people aboard an electric bus during Monday’s morning rush hour, a day after a bomb blast killed at least 17 people at the city’s main railway station.

“This is a despicable attack on innocent people and the entire Olympic Movement joins me in utterly condemning this cowardly act,” Bach said in a statement. “Our thoughts are with the loved ones of the victims.”

Volgograd is located about 650 kilometers (400 miles) northeast of Sochi, which will host the Olympics from Feb. 7-23. Russia’s first Winter Games are a matter of personal pride and prestige for Putin.

Russian authorities believe the two attacks were carried out by the same group. No one claimed responsibility for the bombings, which came several months after Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov threatened new attacks against civilian targets in Russia, including the Olympics.

Here’s a map of the region, to give you a sense of where things are happening. Volgograd is the “A” in both maps (Sochi is at the bottom-left in the first map):

 

And Sochi is due west of Grozny, Chechnya, and is about a 13-hour-drive: