Region secure about Olympic safety despite Russia terrorism attacks

02/01/2014

The dual suicide bombings in Russia have led to concerns about safety measures at the upcoming Olympic games, but Southeast Europe officials are confident in the measures in place.

By Igor Jovanovic for Southeast European Times in Belgrade -- 02/01/14

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Police officers check visitors at the Red Square in central Moscow on December 31st as security measures have been increased following suicide bombings in Volgograd. [AFP]

Officials in Southeast Europe say they are in contact with Russian authorities following a pair of suicide bomber attacks that left at least 34 people dead, and are confident that citizens from the region will be safe at the upcoming Olympic games.

No organisation has taken responsibility for the attacks in Volograd, but Russia Today reports that terror experts suspect they are linked to Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov.

Umarov, who calls himself the "emir" of the terror group the Caucasus Emirate, has called on Muslims to attack civilians and to prevent the Olympics from occurring.

The games, scheduled to begin on February 7th in Sochi, the Black Sea resort about 400 miles southwest of Volgograd, are "Satanic dancing on the bones of our ancestors," Umarov said in a video released online in July.

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach condemned the bombings as "a despicable attack on innocent people."

"The entire international movement joins me in utterly condemning this cowardly act," Bach said in a statement, adding that he wrote Russian President Vladimir Putin to express "our confidence in the Russian authorities to deliver safe and secure games in Sochi."

Putin has maintained that security at the Olympics will be tight. Visitors will be subjected to rigorous security checks and vehicle license plates will be monitored.

Saso Popovski, the secretary general of the Macedonian Olympic Committee, said Macedonian citizens will be safe.

"We have constant contact with the organisers of the Olympics. We also received a letter that guarantees the safety in the Olympic village. Considering the past experience we have from the participation in the Olympics, I consider that the athletes will be safe in the locations where they will stay," he told SETimes.

Damir Šegota, assistant secretary general of the Croatian Olympic Committee, is also confident in the high safety standards for the games.

"The Olympic village, located about 100 kilometres from Sochi, has introduced extraordinary security measures. A special password was introduced, like a visa for all visitors and spectators. All personal data is reviewed and it is impossible for someone to be unchecked. That's why some predict less viewers than usual, because of very extensive security," Šegota told SETimes.

However, according to CNN national security analyst Fran Townsend, there is cause for concern.

"Rarely do you actually have a terrorist group come out and say, 'We're going to try and disrupt these games'," Townsend said Monday. "When al Qaeda-related affinity groups make these sort of statements, you've got to take them at their word."

According to Zoran Dragisic, a Belgrade Faculty of Security professor, Serbia cannot contribute much to the security for the Olympics since it is not a global intelligence force.

"It is up to Russia and other global powers. The Olympics will not be able to flow safely without the co-operation of the strongest states," he said, adding that Serbia should work on safety for its athletes. "We can send Serbian police officers to Sochi to protect our sportsmen and fans," he told SETimes.

Former Kosovo Foreign Minister Skender Hyseni told SETimes that attacks are a signal that co-operation is indispensable in anti-terrorism measures.

"Whoever underestimates it, can find himself hit," Hyseni said. "Co-operation is the pre-condition for success. Be it in the regional level, be it on the international level."

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Xhavit Shala, a security professor at Luarasi University in Tirana, agreed.

"The security situation after the events in Russia should be re-assessed, an analysis of the information that the countries of the region have should be done, co-operation has to be increased as well as the exchange of information between the countries of the region. It is a regional and international issue, not an issue of a single country. Strong police measures in airports and ports are needed, an increase of security in public places and a much better co-operation with the community," he told SETimes.

Correspondents Kruno Kartus in Osijek, Marina Stojanovska in Skopje, Linda Karadaku in Tirana and Tzvetina Borisova in Sofia contributed to this report.

Do you have concerns about the safety of the Olympics Games in Sochi? Why or why not? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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