Friday, July 5, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Sochi Countdown -- 31 Weeks to the Olympiad in the North Caucasus

Note:  This is my 19th special Window on Eurasia about the meaning and impact of the planned Olympiad on the nations in the surrounding region.  These WOEs, which will appear each Friday over the coming year, will not aim at being comprehensive but rather will consist of a series bullet points about such developments.  I would like to invite anyone with special knowlege or information about this subject to send me references to the materials involved.  My email address is  Allow me to express my thanks to all those who already have. Paul Goble

Militant Calls on His Followers to Use Any Methods Necessary to Block Sochi Games. Doku Umarov, the self-styled leader of the anti-Moscow North Caucaus Imamate, says that he and his followers are ending their moratorium on terrorist attacks against Russians in order to take actions to prevent the Sochi Games, which he said should not take place at the site of the genocide of so many North Caucasian Muslims in the 19th century. Circassian and other groups in the region denounced this call for terrorism, saying that they believe using legal means against the competition will be more effective ( and

Moscow to ‘Tighten the Screws’ in the North Caucaus After Umarov’s Threat, Experts Say. Experts surveyed by say that Moscow has no choice but to “tighten the screws” in the North Caucasus after Doku Umarov said he would use force to disrupt the Sochi Olympics, a threat that may frighten away many fans and that the militant or one of his allies may be able to carry out (, and

Guaranteeing Security at Sochi Hard With Militants Nearby, Soldatov Says. Andrey Soldatov, editor of and one of Moscow’s most prominent independent security experts, says that “it is complicated to guarantee the security of the Olympid in  region next door to where militants are to be found (

Kadyrov Promises to Destroy Umarov Before Sochi Games.  Ramzan Kadyrov, head of Chechnya, says heis “certain that we will destroy him” before the Sochi competition. We are looking for him every day” but have not yet been able to local him (

‘Militants Preparing for Sochi Olympics No Less than Russian Government,’ Demushkin Says. Dmitry Demushkin, a Russian nationalist politician says that Doku Umarov’s threat to stage a terrorist attack at Sochi shows that the anti-Moscow underground has been preparing for the Olympics every bit as much as have the Russian authorities (

Patrushev Says Many Governments Will Be Helping to Provide Security at Sochi.  At an international security conferremce in Vladivostok, Nikolay Patrushev, the head of Russia’s Security Council, says that special services from many countries are already making plans to ensure that the Sochi Games will be safe from a terrorist attact. Among them will be officials from the United States (  and ).

FSB Checking Links Between Officials and Militants in Daghestan.  In an indication that Moscow is growing more concerned about the terrorist challenge in the North Caucasus in advance of the Sochi Olympiad, the FSB is investigating financial and other links between militant groups and regional officials, links that could make it far more difficult to prevent violent attacks (

Sochi Olympics Wont’t Be Safe for LGBT Community, Activists Warn … RUSA LGBT activists warn that the Sochi games will not be safe for members of the LGBT community because of the anti-gay law signed by President Vladimir Putin that imposes fines and jail trim on anyone deemed to have enagedd in “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations. “We want to know how IOC they can ensure this in a country with state-sponsored homophobia backed by federal law? How can one attend the Sochi Olympics without compromising one’s integrity by supporting the economy of a country that promotes hate against the LGBT community?” (

… Travel Agency Site Says Russia’s Anti-Gay Law Sweeping in Its Implications… eTurboNews says that It is now literally illegal in Russia to say that you are gay. It is illegal to kiss your partner in public -- say, after you win a gold medal. It is illegal for a gay athlete to wear the rainbow flag. Or even to acknowledge during an interview that they are gay -- or for the foreign press to acknowledge it -- unless they mention that gay sexual orientation in a negative way.” (

…As Gay Activists Call for Boycotts, Withdrawal of Sponsorship, and End to Sister City Ties  Some gay righs activists have called for a boycott of the Sochi Olympia, whileothers have urged corporate sponsors lik Coca-Cola, VISA, Omega Watches, Proctor and Gamble, and Panasonic to withdraw their support for the compettion and clled on cities with Sister City relationships with Russian counterparts to drop or at least suspend those ties to protest the anti-Gay measure ( and

…And Poll Shows Support for Boycott.  According to an informal poll conducted by Britain’s Guardian newspaper, 56 percent of its readers said that the United States should not take part in the Sochi Olympics because of Moscow’s new anti-gay legislation (

Circassians Said Shifting from Seeking Sochi Boycott to Demanding Presence at Games.  According to a German radio station, Circassians, who oppose the Sochi Games because they will take place on the site of the 1864 genocide of their ancestors, are now shifting away from earlier demands that the international community boycott the games and instead are demanding that information about the Circassians and their problems be prominently displayed during the competition. In fact, many Circassian groups are still calling for a boycott ( ).

Circassians Press Their Case on Sochi at European Parliament.  Circassians and their European supporterstold members of the Europen Parliament about the plight of their people and the reasons that the Sochi Olympics is an insult to them because it is on the site of the 1864 genocide of their ancestors (

Russian Officials Publish Special Directive for fighting Extremism among Circassians.  Ekaterina Ageyeva of the North Caucasus Center for Ethno-Political Research, has published guidelines on how to combat those who use “the Circassian issue” in advance of the Sochi Olympics in order to prevent “an escalation of tensions, extremism and terrorism” there (

Putin’s ‘Impassioned Speeches in English and French’ Helped Sochi Win Games.  Aleksandr Zhukov, head of the Russian Olympic Committee, says on the sixth anniversary of the IOC’s decision to award the Olympic Games to Sochi that “impassioned speeches in English and French” by President Vladimir Putin “didn’t go amiss” in securing the games for the southern Russian city.  “In Sochi, there was othing. Everything we showed was computer models, in contrast to Salzburg and Pyeongchang, where you could see many of the existing facilities with your own eyes” (

Chernyshenko Says Sochi Games will be ‘More Effective’ than Earlier Olympiads.  Dmitry Chernyshenko, head of the Sochi 2014 organizing committee, says the upcoming Olympiad will be “more effective” than any of its predecessors, that construction is going well, preparations for trial competitions scheduled, and  tickets selling quickly with most of them costing less than 230 US dollars a seat (

One North Caucasian Leader Out but Others Expected to Remain Until After Sochi.  Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, head of Ingushetia, has resigned, although President Vladiimir Putin has asked him to remain until his replacement can be selected. But other North Caucasus republic heads are expected to remain in place until after Sochi lest their departures further destabilize the situation (,

Young Beggars Appear in Sochi.  Despite or perhaps because of all the money that is flowing into the Olympic city, youthful  beggars have begun to appear on Sochi streets, prompting local residents to ask why these children are not under superivision and what the city’s administration is going to do about them (

Corruption Scandal in North Caucasus Resorts Spreads.  Police have raided the offices of the North Caucasus Resorts organization in Moscow and St. Petersburg looking for additional evidence of financial malfeasance by the leaders of that organation (

Russian Officials Say Generators Ready But Power Outrages Still a Daily Occurrence in Sochi. The government agency responsible for installing new power facilities in Sochi says that all work on them is complete, but as chronicles every day, residents still face numerous power outrages throughout the week (

Russian Officials Say Sochi Cheaper than Vancouver and Being Built Faster than BAM.  “Novaya gazeta” asked Russian officials to evaluate Boris Nemtsov’s book on the Sochi Olympics. The officials said that “in fact” Sochi was being built “seven times faster than BAM” and would come in “1.5 times cheaper than Vancouver,” claims that most observers have dismissed out of hand as wildly inaccurate (

Olympic Construction Now Proceeding at ‘Forced Tempo.’ In order to complete all the Olympic venues, roads and support facilties, officials have directed that companies use “forced tempos” to overcome past delays (

Sochi Organizers to House Visitors in Cruise Ships Because Hotels Aren’t Ready.  The Sochi Olympic committee says it will house some 50,000 Olympic visitors in cruise ships because of “behind-schedule construction of sports venues, highways, hotels, and airport.”  Olympic visitors in Athens and Vancouver also used ships as hotels (

Fears that Voronezh Nikel Protests Could Disrupt Sochi Games.  A Moscow commentator has suggested that protests against exploration for nickel in Voronezh oblast could disrupt the Olympiad because that roads crossing that region connect Moscow with the North Caucasus (

Islamists Reportedly Planning to Disrupt Universiade.  The news agency reports that Islamist groups in Tatarstan have called on their followers to engage in a jihad against the Kazan Universiade (

24,000 Police and Internal Troops Guarding Kazan Competition.  According to Tatarstan officials, security at the Universiad will be providedby nearly 24,000 police and internal troops, who will ensure order and keep any demonstrators 500 meters from the sites of competitions (

Broad Official Crackdown on Tatarstan Muslims in Advance of Kazan Universiade. “The number of violations of Kazan residents is growing like a snowball every day as the Universiade approaches,” according to local Muslims, with police routinely stopping people and entering their houses if they appear to be Muslim (

Chuvash Activists Blocked from Attending Kazan Universiade. In what may be an indication of how Russian officials will behave at the Sochi Games, law enforcement agencies have prevented Chuvash activists from attending the competitions in the capital of Tatarstan (

Russian Athletes to Be Taught English so They Can Give Interviews.  The Moscow Times reports that the Kremlin has decided that Russian competitors at Sochi need to learn English so that they can “travel to training cmps, communicate with colleagues and give interviews” as partofan effort to “boost” Russia’s image ( ).

Case Brought Against Sochi Man for Anti-Central Asian Videos and Attacks.  A man who produced a video clip denouncing Central Asian gastarbeiters in Sochi and then attacked two of those workers in the street has been charged with violating Russian laws against exacerbating ethnic hatred (

Olympic Construction Destroying Environmentally Fragile Area. Despite protests and demonstrations, companies building Olympic facilities in the Imeretinskaya low land, an area  rich in rare flora and fauna, are destroying rather than protecting that wildlife.  Some of the companies have won court injunctions against the environmentalists and so have been able to continue without worrying about the ecological impact of their work. Meanwhile, Sochi residents continue their protests against the destruction of green spaces in their city  (,

Residents in Sochi Lowlands No Longer Have Fresh Water to Drink.  Construction has left residents of the Imeretskaya district without any fresh water, forcing some of them to use highly saline sea water for their needs, something that is killing plants and making people there sick ( ).

Nemtsov Calls Attention to Police Beatings in Sochi.  Boris Nemtsov visited one of the victims of a brutal police beating while Russian opposition figure was in Sochi and has since discussed the case on his blog. According to Nemtsov, city officials “knew” what was going on but “remain silent” lest they get in the way of companies involved in Olympic construction (

Olympic Constractors Say Those Demanding Back Pay were Dismissed for Poor Work.  Sochiprofstroy officials say that a group of workers who have been protesting the company’s failure to pay them for their work were in fact dismissed for doing their jobs badly (

Gastarbeiters in Sochi Subject to Close Checking.  A government commission is subjecting Central Asian and North Caucasian gastarbeiters to new checks following complaints about their behavior in the Olympic city ( ).

Sochi Organizers Promise Enough Snow Even If It Has to Come Out of Freezers.  Aleksandr Zhukov, president of Russia’s Olympic Committee, says “there will be no problems with snow” and that “the Olympics in Sochi will go ahead in any weather.” The reason for his confidence? Moscow is spending eight million US dollars to store in refrigerators 450,000 cubic meters of snow from this year. His comments came after Moscow had to cancel the Nordic combined event this year because temperatures in Sochi were too high for snow to stay on the ground ( ).

Small Storm Overwhelms Olympic Containment Wall.  A small southern storm overwhelmed coastal defense measues put in place by Olympic contractors, an indication of just how little protection the city has from more serious storms that are more common there in winter months (

Olympic Construction Makes Sochi Anything But an Attractive Tourist Destination This Year. Residents say that construction for the Sochi games, often going at breakneck speed, has left their city ugly and dangerous for any visitors at least this season (

First Case of Meningitis Registered in Sochi. The meningitis epidemic in the Russian Federation has now reached Sochi, medical officials there say ( ).

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