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Danger looms at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, but is Russia's security up to snuff?

Grant Hatchimonji | Jan. 28, 2014
Aside from military forces and SWAT-like team units for rapid response, the Russians will also deploy sonar systems and anti-missile batteries around Sochi to guard against attacks from both air and sea.

Some of the other security measures include CCTV ("Hundreds, if not thousands of CCTV cameras capable of detecting a package being left behind at a particular site, or a vehicle traveling the wrong way or standing in one position for a prolonged period, or even having the capacity of counting cars and detecting overloaded traffic lanes," said Besse), crowd control, and a significant military/police presence. A recent Bloomberg report indicated that Russian president Vladimir Putin has deployed 40,000 police and special service officers in what is being dubbed the "Ring of Steel" to battle the threat of Islamic militants.

"The groups that Russia is militant against over there are very determined to make some kind of statement and are motivated by a very deeply rooted cause," said Besse.

It would appear that Besse's assessment of the highly motivated attacks is accurate, as pre-Olympic terrorist attacks have already begun in surrounding areas. Just last month, there was a suicide bombing in the southern city of Volgograd (less than 430 miles from Sochi), killing over 30 people. An Islamic militant group took responsibility for the attacks in a video released shortly thereafter, while also threatening additional attacks during the games.

There is also the concern of what have been referred to as "black widow" attacks, where wives of militant jihadists who have died during the conflict between the Northern Caucasus and Russia lead or participate in suicide bombings. Since the early 2000s, there have been a number of terrorist attacks made by females from Chechnya and other nearby regions that are intended to promote separatism for the North Caucasus.

In fact, the "Ring of Steel," which covers an area spanning approximately 1,500 miles, may have already been penetrated by one of these so-called black widows, as Russian authorities have been on high alert since last week looking for a woman named Ruzanna Ibragimova. According to a CNN report, police and hotel staff have issued fliers that contain information about Ibragimova and indicate that the authorities received information about her recent arrival in the region.

The flier states that she may be involved in organizing "a terrorist act within the 2014 Olympic region."

Bringing it all together
What's most important according to Besse, however, is that none of the individual security systems stand alone. "These systems have to be integrated into a single operating package so that very smart people can take all this data that's being gathered and put some analysis to it," he said. "Then, the whole security package can be proactive and preventative in nature."

In other words, the Russians are using their tools for access controls, surveillance, etc., but then taking the data that they generate and coming up with an intelligent package. That way, the data can be put to use for deciding where resources can be allocated or reallocated.


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