Friday, January 17, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Sochi Countdown – 3 Weeks to the Olympiad in the North Caucasus

Note:  This is my 47th 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 knowledge 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

Is Putin Reprising His KGB Role at the 1980 Moscow Games? According to Moscow commentator Vladimir Abarinov, it is said that in 1980 Vladimir Putin, then a senior lieutenant in the KGB, played a role in providing security for the Moscow Olympiad. And Abarinov conclude that the Russian president is insisting on many of the security arrangements for Sochi on the basis of his experience then. If so, that could lead the organs now to place a disproportionate stress on physical security rather than on the sharing of information and possibly lead to provocations against groups with which the Kremlin is at odds. That is because, the Grani commentator continues, if one feels oneself in a fortress under siege, one’s “first duty is to find an internal enemy”  (

Putin Will Do Whatever’s Necessary, From  Repressions to Concessions, to Make Sochi a Success, Commentator Says.  Tatyana Stanovaya, a senior analyst at the Moscow Center for Political Technology, says that Vladimir Putin will do whatever he has to in order to ensure that the Sochi Games are a success, ranging from greater repression to new concessions to the opposition (

US State Department Urges Americans Visiting Sochi to Be ‘Vigilant.’ Those who go to the Sochi games should be vigilant, the US Department of State says, because of the possibility of terrorist attacks in the region. While there is no evidence that US citizens are being targeted for attack, the State Department says, Americans travelling to Sochi should be aware of the risk and also of the presence of security forces around them. They should also be aware, the warning continued, that medical care may be of a lower standard than they are accustomed to (  and

CDC Warns American Visitors to Sochi of Health Risks, Medical Shortcomings.  The Center for Disease Control has issued a warning to Americans planning to go to the Sochi Olympiad about the health risks they may face there and about problems with medical care in the Russian Federation.  Among the advice the CDC gives is that any American having sex there should wear a condom (

Almost a Third of Sochi Tickets Remain Unsold.  In an indication that there may be empty seats at Sochi because of concerns about security or other issues, 30 percent of the tickets for the Olympics remain unsold, according to Russin officials.  Tickets are available for almost all events and higher-end tickets for the opening and closing ceremonies remain available as well.  In contrast, the 2012 London Games sold out early, and at the last winter games in Vancouver, all but 110,000 of 1.5 million were sold. Another indication of weak sales and even weaker attendance is the increasingly large resale market where those who bought tickets earlier either because they planned to go or hoped to profit from resale ( and

Medvedev Says ‘Practically All’ Olympic Objects are Ready and Have Been Tested.  Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev says that “practically all objects are ready and have passed a serious checking ... In general and on the whole, everything is working” (

Despite Moscow’s Claims, All is Not Ready for Opening of Games.  The Russian government and its spokesmen routinely insist that everything is ready for the games, but photographs of Sochi facilities posted online, the hiring of 2000 workers from outside at the last minute, wages for Olympic sites now 50 percent higher than the city average, and the use of Soviet-style “forced voluntary” labor underscores that things are not yet completely ready. What is especially striking is that photographs released by officials to show completion in fact show just the opposite (,,,,,,  and

Thirty Thousand Gastarbeiters Still in Sochi, Kozak Acknowledges. Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak who is overseeing the Sochi Olympics for Moscow says that there are still 30,000 gastarbeiters in Sochi despite his earlier pledges to have all of them out first in November and then December. Most of them are working on Olympic infrastructure projects that are still not completed (

Moscow Puts Sochi Protest Site Seven Miles from Nearest Olympic Venue. After Russian President Vladimir Putin promised to allow demonstrations in Sochi if the FSB and local authorities approved, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak who is overseeing the Sochi Olympics for Moscow announced that “the protest zone” would be located in Khost, seven miles or 12 kilometers from Olympic sites. The site is located on a street named for the 50th Anniversary of the USSR. Kozak said that “at the park in Khosta, people will be able freely to express their opinions without violating the rights of other citizens or the Olympic charter” (

Kozak Promises All Wage Arrears in Sochi Will Be Eliminated by January 14.  Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak who is overseeing the Sochi Olympics for Moscow said that he will ensure that all Sochi workers who are owed wages will be fully paid by January 14.  At the same time, the local authorities set up a hot line for workers to complain about this, although the issue has been a lively one for more than a year ( and

Kozak Says Sochi Air Now Twice as Clean as It Was but Photos Show Otherwise. Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak who is overseeing the Sochi Olympics for Moscow said that the air in Sochi is now twice as clean as it was before Olympic construction began, but local residents and the photographs they have posted online suggest otherwise (

Kozak Says Olympics Cost Seven Billion US Dollars and No Funds Were Misused. Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak who is overseeing the Sochi Olympics for Moscow said that the Sochi Olympics had cost just seven billion US dollars, far less than all outside experts have said but the figure Vladimir Putin is apparently insisting on. In addition, he said that no money had been corruptly diverted. Kozak thus added his support to the head of Russian Railways who wants to sue IOC member Gian-Franco Kasper for saying the Sochi Games cost far more and did so in part because of corruption ( and

Foreign Intelligence Agencies Offering to Help in Sochi Security Seen Threatening Russia. That the Russian government has not taken the proper steps to ensure security at Sochi is beyond question, according to one Russian blogger, but that does not mean that Russians should not question the agendas of the several foreign intelligence services that will be sending their agents to Sochi.  The blogger asks whether they will really help with security or alternatively promote protests and undermine the Russian authorities (

Going to Sochi Games Will Cost a Russian Couple at Least 23,600 Rubles.  A Russian couple planning to go to the Sochi Games will have to count on spending 23,600 rubles (760 US dollars) for train fare from Moscow, low-end hotel rooms and food, and tickets for the least popular events, according to one journalist’s calculation. That amount is roughly equal to an average Russian monthly salary. Those who want to fly, stay at high-end hotels, and attend the opening or closing ceremonies or the most popular events can expect to spend far more (

Moscow Pulling Security Personnel from Across Russia for Sochi Games.  Moscow is sending troops from as far away as Siberia and the Russian Far East to provide security at Sochi, at least in principle leaving some of these regions at greater risk of a terrorist attack (

1300 Medical Workers from Across Russia Will be in Sochi for Games. Possibly at least partially in response to Western suggestions, including one by the US Department of State, that medical care in Sochi is likely to be Spartan, Russian officials have announced that they are sending 1300 medical workers from Moscow, Tataarstan and the Kuban and that 350 of them have already received special training (

Tbilisi Again Offers to Help Russia with Sochi Security.  Georgian Prime Minister Irakly Garbiashvili said that his government is ready to provide assistance to Russia in the struggle against terrorism during the Sochi Olympiad.  If Russia agrees, “we will only be glad” to do so, he said (

Bulgarian Leaders Will Attend Sochi Opening Ceremony.  Although many world leaders are staying away from Sochi for scheduling or political reasons, the president and prime minister of Bulgaria, the only country that asked to join the USSR twice and was refused, have announced that they will attend the opening ceremony in Sochi (

Adler Railroad Station Evacuated a Second Time.  Although officials have refused to say what happened, the railway station at Adler has been evacuated twice in the last week, once on January 11 and a second time on January 12, as photographs of people standing outside the station appear to confirm ( and

Kirov Residents Say Torch Running Past ‘Carrying with It Our Schools, Hospital and Pensions.’  When the Olympic torch passed through Kirov, the police harassed local opposition figures, but some of those standing along the route carried signs saying that the Sochi torch represented the one trillion rubles Moscow has taken out of the pockets of Russians and thus, “running past us are the schools, hospitals and pensions” Russians won’t get (

Olympic Torch Leads to ‘Theater of the Absurd” in Saratov.  Although Saratov residents were not unhappy that officials cleaned up the city in advance of the passing of the Olympic torch, they were upset by the pressure those same officials put on children and adults to show up alongside the site and the fact that the trash that had disappeared returned after the torch had passed (, and,0,6873307.story).

Penza Officials Pull Out All the Stops and an Adult Star to Boost Audience for Torch.  Not only did officials in Penza cover a broken down building along the route with canvas showing a newer and better “Potemkin” building, but they very publically invited a woman who has appeared in Russian men’s magazines to the event in the hopes of attracting more people to the route. But th effort largely failed and residents complained about what the officials were doing  (,

Olympic Torch Route Shortened for Security in North Caucasus.  Because of security concerns, Olympic officials have announced that they have reduced the length of the route the Olympic torch will travel and the number of bearers who will carry it in Daghestan and North Osetia ( and

Vandals Destroy Byzantine Church Ruins near Sochi.  As yet unidentified fortune hunters have destroyed much of the ruins of a ninth century Byzantine church near Sochi (

Sochi is ‘Not a Concentration Camp Of Course, But ...’ The influx of security officers from across Russia is now so large that residents in Sochi are saying that their city isn’t a concentration camp but it is on the way to becoming one. That reflection is especially bitter now, they say, because some of the siloviki coming in are behaving badly, including appearing in public drunk and disorderly (

Sochi Countdown Clock Unexpectedly Stops Three Weeks Before Opening Ceremony.  There has not been any official explanation, but the Olympiad countdown clock in the center of Sochi has stopped working 22 days before the competition is scheduled to open (

‘Sochi 2014’ Playwright Says Russians told Her ‘There are No Gays in Russia.’ Tess Berry-Hart, who wrote “Sochi 2014” about the travails of LGBTs in Russia, says that Russians friends told her as she prepared that there were no gay people in Russia or they were confined to St. Petersburg. Ultimately, however, mutual friends opened the way for the conversations that became the basis for her London play (

Moscow has Time to Acknowledge Its ‘Bloody History’ in the Caucasus, Canadian Historian Says.  Carolyn Harris, a historian at the University of Toronto, says that despite the attention the international community has given to problems in Sochi, “President Vladimir Putin’s decision to downplay Sochi’s bloody history within the context of the Olympics has received less attention.” But “with the Opening Ceremonies a few weeks away, there is still time for the Olympics to serve as an opportunity for Russia to acknowledge its violent history in the region” (

Sochi Officials Beginning ‘Mass Killing’ of Homeless Animals. Despite expression of outrage by animal rights groups in Russia and abroad and unkept promises by Russian officials that they would build a pound to house animals rather than kill them, these officials have launched what defenders of the animals say is “the mass cleansing” of Sochi from homeless animals. These activists are appealing for support so that they can get the dogs and cats off the street and prevent their euthanization (

Russian Courts Reject LGBT Group’s Request for Permission to Demonstrate in Sochi.  A Krasnoyarsk kray court has left in place a Sochi court’s decision not to permit a demonstration by LGBT groups in Sochi on January 26, an indication of the problems such groups are likely to have despite Vladimir Putin’s recent promise that groups can organize demonstrations if they get FSB permission (

Sochi Mayor Plagiarized Dissertation. Like some other Russian officials, Sochi Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov has been exposed as having lifted large segments of his dissertation from the work of others. His violation of academic integrity, initially raised by has now been taken up by, “Novaya gazeta” and (

Pakhomov Blamed for Deforestation of Sochi.  Sochi Mayor Anatoly Pakhmov by his actions and inactions is responsible for the cutting down of “hundreds of thousands of trees” in the resort city and its surrounding territory.  For the construction of a single power facility in Kudepsta alone, he authorized the cutting down of more than 2,000 trees (

For Poorer Sochi Residents, Authorities Redecorate a 1950s Barracks.  As they watch expensive new buildings going up arount them, some Sochi residents are expressing outrage that local officials are simply lightly redecorating half-century-old barracks as the housing for less well-off people. They describe one of these buildings as tuberculosis breeding grounds (

Russia Experiencing ‘Represssion of Olympic Proportions,’ Freedom House Warns.  The western human rights organization Freedom House has released a report detailing the ways in which “on the eve of Sochi,” residents of the Russian Federation are suffering “repression of Olympic proportions” (

27 Nobel Prize Winners Call on Putin to Repeal Anti-Gay Law.  Twenty-seven winners of Nobel Prizes in an open letter published in London’s “Independent” call on Russian President Vladimir Putin to repeal the “repressive homophobic legislation” which has sparked denunciations and controversy around the world. Their letter has already drawn fire from Russian commentators who say that the Western scholars are both interfering in Russia’s domestic affairs and promoting immorality ( and

West Said Using Gays as Frontline Troops for New Cold War Against Russia. Russian commentator Valery Panov says that Western governments are using LGBT activists as frontline troops in their reopened cold war against Russia (

Despite Local Opposition, Putin Orders 2019 Universiade to Take Place in Krasnoyarsk.  Residents and some officials in Krasnoyarsk have opposed Moscow’s plans to have their city host the Universiade in 2019 because their city is already suffering from a deficit and many infrastructure problems. But despite that, President Vladimir Putin has signed an order that the competition will take place there (

NBC Co-Host Says She Feels ‘Good Enough’ about Sochi Security.  Meredith Vieira,who will co-host NBC’s coverage of the Games, told “The Hollywood Reporter” that "I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t [concerned about security]. But "I really believe the Russian government is going to do everything it can to avoid that situation. This is Putin’s baby and they don’t want anything to go wrong. But that doesn’t mean things won’t happen elsewhere in the country because I think those terrorists are given an opportunity and they will take it." She concluded, “I’m basically assured that it will be fine. But it may not be. I know that. But I feel good enough about it that I’m going to be there for sure” (

Islamists Could Attack Sochi with Drones of Their Own.  Richard Lourie, who has written extensively about Russia, says that Russia's Islamist insurgents may attack the Sochi Winter Olympics with drones. These will not be like the drones used by the Americans, armed with Hellfire missiles. Rather they will be jerry-rigged unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, of the sort easily available online for a few thousand dollars. Such remote-controlled UAVs are probably unstoppable at low altitudes and will not need much armament to cause mayhem.” He speculates that the most likely occasion will be the closing ceremony. That is because February 23rd “marks the 70th anniversary of the deportation of Chechens, Ingush and others from their homelands in the North Caucasus. That choice was either an act of colossal ignorance or colossal arrogance,” he says (

Environmental Organizations Appeal to IOC about Russian Repression of Ecologists.  Greenpeace Russia, World Wildlife – Russia, and the UN Environmental Program – have appealed to IOC President Thomas Bach to require Moscow to end the repression of Russian ecologists like Yevgeny Vitishko. If the IOC does not do so, the environmental organizations said they would appeal to other international organizations (

Circassian Leaders Denounce Terrorism. The leaders of major Circassian organizations in the North Caucasus and abroad have issued a statement denouncing terrorism and any other criminal actions some may take for political goals. They said that they remain committed to promoting the Circassian cause but would do so only within the law and the principles of democracy ( and

Cossacks Double Their Sochi Contingent.  Russian officials had planned to use 410 Cossacksa as guards during the Sochi Games, but they have now announced plans to double that representation to 820, an increase that suggests Moscow is pulling out all the stops to ensure physical security in the Olympic venue (

Sochi has Cost Every Russian Two Months Salary, Blogger Says.  President Vladimir Putin has spent on the Sochi Olympiad an amount equal to 70,000 rubles, more than two months salary, of every Russian man, woman and child, and one that could have been spent to buy military equipment or improve the lives of the people, according to a Russian blogger.  And much of this money has been corruptly diverted, he says, pointing to the bankruptcy of 25 companies, some of which may have been only shell corporations, over the last 12 months (

Russian Weather Forecasters Have Been Preparing for Sochi for Four Years.  Roman Vilfand, the director of Russia’s Hydrometeorological Center, says he and his colleagues have been preparing for four years to make the best forecasts possible for the Sochi Games. He says that there will be enough snow but notes that many competitors prefer artificial snow instead (

Petersburg Police Serving in Sochi Say They’re in Prison-Like Conditions.  Some members of the St. Petersburg police who have been transferred to Sochi in advance of the Olympics say that they are being treated as if they were in prison, with bad living conditions and extreme restrictions on their activities (

Sweden’s Sports Minister to Skip Sochi Opening Ceremony.  Lena Adelsohn Lijeroth, Sweden’s minister of sports, says she will go to Sochi to support her country’s athletes but will not take part in the opening ceremonies which she had had been politicized by Russian President Vladimir Putin (

Human Rights Watch Fears Conditions in Russia Could Deteriorate After Sochi. Tanya Lokshina, HRW's Russia program director and senior researcher, said in releasing an HRW guide to the Olympiad that "What happens if -- God forbid -- everyone forgets about Russia after the Olympics and all the eyes that are now focused on Russia as the host country of the Olympic Games will be turned the other way? We are seriously worried that, should such a situation occur, the offensive against civil society, freedom of opinion, and independent activists will be strongly advanced. The screws might be tightened exceptionally severely. The only way to prevent that from happening is to continue to keep our attention on Russia once the Olympic Games are over" (

Many in Moscow Worried by Growing Criticism of Sochi.  Nikolay Petrov, a poessor at the Moscow Higher School of Economics, says that the many in Moscow’s expert community are concerned about “the growing wave of criticism abroad of Vladimir Putin’s Olympic policy and the dissatisfaction of Russians with the torch show and the enormous expenditures for the competition itself.”  This  development suggests that the Kremlin leader has made a miscalculation in how he has organized the games and that this may have political consequences for him in the coming months, including a possible challenge to his power ( 

FSB is Preparing to Block Protests More than to Prevent Terrorism, Soldatov Says.  Andrey Soldatov, Russia’s leading independent expert on that country’s security agencies, says that the security program that the FSB has put in place in Sochi appears to be more about preventing protests rather than terrorist actions.  He also says that the games are providing “an excellent opportunity” for Russian counter-intelligence officers to gather “personal data on so many important people” (

Sochi Fan Passport Requires Much Personal Information.  The Sochi Olympiad organizers have now put up a website about the fan passport they have introduced in the name of security. It requires far more detailed information than visa applications (

‘Almost All’ Illegal Buildings in Sochi Have Been Legalized or Torn Down.  Russian officials say that “almost all” of the many buildings erected in Sochi without permission or in violation of city rules have been legalized or torn down. In place of many of those torn down is new Olympics-related construction (

Russian Actor Who Said Gays Should be Put in Ovens Calls for Ban on Homosexuality.  Ivan Okhlobystin, a Rusian actor who earlier called for gays to be put in ovens has now called on President Vladimir Putin to restore the Soviet-era ban on homosexuality. His comments have infuriated many but received support from others (

Heritage Report Says US Should Help Moscow with Sochi Security. A  report on security and counter-terrorism at Sochi prepared by Heritage researchers Cassandra Lucaccioni and Ariel Cohen says that the United States should provide “the Russian leadership and Olympic council to put in place comprehensive counterterrorism measures to protect the city of Sochi, the athletes, and the spectators while allowing an exciting and competitive global event to take place” (

Putin’s Sochi Spending May Scare Off Future Olympic Bids.  One of the consequences of the enormous price of the Sochi Games, Simon Jenkiins of “The Guardian” says, is that many countries which might have been interested in hosting the games in the future will decide against doing so. “In Rio, the poor (and not so poor) are already rioting against the extravagance,” he says. “In Sochi, Putin's gamble with international terrorism is already proving lethal. As so far planned, Qatar will have footballers dying of heat and stadiums left decaying in the desert like Ozymandias's ruins. It will one day go horribly wrong. Perhaps then a brave ruler will have the guts to walk away from this nonsense” (

‘A Caucasian Olympics without Caucasians.’  Russia’s decision to place the Kabardino-Balkaria Republic on the other side of its national security perimeter and the orders officials reportedly have issued to residents of Daghestan, Chechnya and Ingushetia not to travel to Krasnodar kray without special permission until after the Sochi Games may mean that they will prove to be “a Caucasian Olympics without Caucasians” ( and

High Winds Knock over Sochi City New Year’s Tree.  High winds have knocked down the Sochi city new year’s tree, and residents note that no one has yet tried to put it back up (

Sochi Games Have Poisoned Abkhazia’s Relations with Russia.  According to a “Newsweek” account, Abkhazians are outraged that they have been prevented from competing as a separate country at Sochi or from earning money by working on Olympic construction or even from attending the competitions.  As one Abkhazian told the American news weeksly, “you have to be careful with Russians. If you put your finger in their mouth, they’ll bite off your arm right up to the shoulder” (

Circassians Begin Commemoration of 150th Anniversary of 1864 Genocide.  Circassians in Adygeya have held the first memorial events to mark the 150th anniversary of the genocide carried out against their ancestors by Russian forces. They say that they will hold such events throughout the year and announced that whatever happens in Sochi – and most Circassians oppose the games because they take place on the site where many of their nation were killed -- the Circassians “will not forget about the tragedy of their own people for a minute” (

Security Gaps on Rail Lines Confirmed.  Experts have confirmed a report by Kuban television last week that there are serious security gaps on the rail lines leading into Sochi, gaps that could allow a terrorist to enter the city with little risk of being stopped or even challenged (

Low Public Trust in Russian Media and Officials Allows Rumors to Spread. Many Russians particularly in the North Caucasus do not trust what the largely state-controlled media and officials tell them, something that is reflected both in suggestions that Russian officials themselves may be behind recent terrorist outrages, an unwillingness to believe the confessions of those arrested for the Volgograd attacks, and the rapid spread of panicky rumors, independent journalists say (

Competitors and Fans at Risk of Ammonia Poisoning at Sochi Bobsled Track.  According to Ecological Watch on the North Caucasus, shoddy construction means that in the event of even a small accident on the Sochi bobsled track, many competitors and fans could be at risk of ammonia poisoning.  The EWNC said that contractors could have eliminated such a risk with proper planning but that they had not done so and that the health of many could now be endangered (

Belgian Senate Rejects Call for Sochi Boycott.  The Belgian senate approved a resolution rejecting a boycott of the Sochi Games that representatives of the country’s Green Party had called for (

Sochi Schoolboy Says Pakhomov Should Go to Antarctica and Herd Penguins.  Asked what he would like to tell Sochi Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov, a schoolboy in the Olympic city said that he would like to tell him to move to Antarctica and herd penguins, a measure of just how unpopular Pakhomov now is (

Metal Thefts on the Rise in Sochi.  Thieves are stealing copper and other metals from construction sites in order to make money, a crime very common in the Russian Federation in the 1990s but relatively rare now.  Apparently, many construction sites are not well-guarded and thieves have found it easy to make off with large amounts of the valuable metals (

Novosibirsk Residents Make a Sochi Out of Snow – Including Icy Palm Trees. In honor of the Winter Olympiad in the subtropics, residents of the capital of Siberia have build a model of Sochi out of snow, including palm trees! (

Circassians Lumped with ‘Many Others’ in Cultural Plans for Sochi.  According to a report posted on the Circassian Voices webpage, there will be Circassian performers taking part in the cultural programs in Sochi, but unlike Rusians, Cossacks, and Udmurts, there is as yet no specific reference to them in Olympic planning documents that have been made public. Instead, it is assumed they are being lumped together with “many others.” “It is not clear whether this omission is intentional or not. It is perhaps that we are not looking in the right place, or missed something. Be that as it may, it seems that although a substantive Circassian cultural component is scheduled during the games, at the meta-level,” the report concludes, “the Circassians are being ignored” (

Sochi Games have ‘Nothing to Do’ with Patriotism, Prestige or Health, Russian Blogger Says. Despite the Kremlin’s claims to the contrary, the holding of an Olympic games in Sochi has “nothing to do” with patriotism, prestige or promoting public health, a blogger says.Consequently, there is no justification for the enormous sums of money being spent on them (

Russian Economy Likely to Suffer Post-Olympic Recession. Western and Russian experts say that following the Sochi Games and the infusion of money into the economy that that competition has represented, the Russian economy as a whole is likely to suffer, although perhaps not as much as those of other Olympic hosts in the past (

Moscow Seen Preparing Anti-Georgian ‘Provocation’ at Sochi.Paata Davitaya, the leader of Georgia’s European Democrats, says that Moscow is currently preparing “a serious provocation against Georgia” to take place at the time of the Sochi Games and likely involving the Abkhazians (

Sochi Cartoons Increasingly Sharp. Russian cartoonists have had a field day with Sochi, but in recent days, their drawings have become ever more significant as a form of public commentary. One cartoon showed a man selling snacks and Sochi license plates to people trying to drive into the city ( Another showed rabbits being asked to vote for a fox as the only choice for their leader ( A third showed Putin using “smoke” from the Olympic torch to try to hide repression ( A fourth showed an Olympic torchbearer being blocked from entering Sochi by siloviki ( And a fifth showed the four horse of the apocalypse riding into Sochi, one of whom looked like a security officer and another like Moscow Patriarch Kirill (

Duma Preparing New Anti-Terrorist Laws. In the wake of the Volgograd terrorist attacks and in defense of Sochi, the Russian parliament is considering a package of new laws that will increase penalties for terrorist actions, expand government control over the Internet, and block anonymous funds transfer ( and

Russian Energy Minister Promises Sochi Electric Grid Will Be Ready by January 25.  Pressed by Russian President Vladimir Putin and at a time when more than 20,000 Sochi residents are suffering power outages on a daily basis, some planned and many as the result of construction accidents, Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak said that his ministry will finish “all work” on the grid by January 20 and have it cleared for public access by January 25 ( and,0,7523849.story#axzz2q5KajCcP).

Fraudulent Poll on Sochi Pulled Off the Internet. A poll that gave those who responded few choices but to say they were awaiting the Sochi Games with enthusiasm unless they put other was pulled after bloggers noted that, like many other North Caucasus enumeration, the numbers listed totaled more than 100 percent. One blogger noted that this finding makes Sochi only slightly less popular than the ruling United Russia Party which received 146 percent in one election (, and\

Italian Olympic Committee Member Criticizes US for Including Gay Athletes on Its Delegation.  Mario Pescante, a member of the Italian Olympic Committee, said that it was “absurd” that the US was sending “four lesbians to Russia just to demonstrate that in their country gay rights [have been established].” Pescante said he is not against gays but only against the politicization of the Olympiad (

Moscow to Monitor Sochi from Space if Need Be.  Emergency Situations Minister Vladimir Puchkov said the Russian government would monitor Sochi from space if need be. Other officials noted that responsibility for controlling the airspace over Sochi would be divided among four different agencies, including the FSB and the Interior Ministry ( and

Sewage Leaks and Trash Remain Problems. Despite official promises and some efforts, Sochi residents continue to find new sewage leaks in public places and trash heaps where they are not supposed to be (,,, and

Sochi Residents Continue to Struggle with Water and Power Outages, TV Cutoffs, Enhanced Security, and Rising Prices. Sochi residents are increasingly angry that their power, water and heat is anything but reliable, that their television service has been cut off for several days, that the enhanced security measures Moscow has imposed are making their lives more complicated, and that they face rising prices, including what looks like price gouging by utilities seeking to recover their own rising costs or to make a profit (,

Two Million People Have Viewed Film on Sochi Moscow Didn’t Want Shown.  Because of the Internet, two million people have viewed a film that the Kremlin tried to block nine months ago.  Many have also viewed other films and film clips critical of the Sochi games (, and

Sochi Still has Still Not Created a Barrier-Free Environment.  Russian Paralymic organizers have made serious strides in creating a barrier-free environment in Sochi given the place from which they started, but there are still many places where people with physical handicaps will find it difficult or impossible to gain access (

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