Deadly attacks put spotlight on security ahead of Sochi Olympics
Published Monday, December 30, 2013 10:36AM EST
Last Updated Monday, December 30, 2013 10:58PM EST
In the wake of two deadly, back-to-back suicide attacks in the Russian city of Volgograd, Olympic officials say they remain confident Russia will host a safe Games in February. But some security experts suggest there will likely be more attacks to come before the world descends on Sochi.
A deadly suicide bombing on a Volgograd trolley bus early Monday killed at least 14 people. On Sunday, a suicide bombing at the city's main railway station killed at least 16. The city of roughly one million people is located about 650 kilometres northeast of Sochi, and serves as a major transport hub for southern Russia.
The International Olympic Committee says IOC President Thomas Bach has written Russian President Vladimir Putin to send his condolences following the attacks, which he called "despicable" and "cowardly." Bach said he remains confident Russia will deliver a "safe and secure" event despite the bombings.
The IOC chief said he is "certain that everything will be done to ensure the security of the athletes and all the participants of the Olympic Games."
But Toronto-based security consultant Alan Bell told CTV's Canada AM that with the games less than six weeks away and the world's spotlight soon to be cast on Sochi, there will likely be more terrorist attacks.
"I hate to say this, but it's going to get worse before it gets any better," Bell said. "What is happening now is they have the world's stage within reach of their country."
While no group has come forward to claim responsibility for the attacks, Russian authorities say they were carried out by the same group. The attacks come months after Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov threatened to attack civilian targets, including the Olympic Games.
Bell said in the lead up to the Olympics, Russian security forces will be concentrated in Sochi, leaving other major cities vulnerable to attacks. So while the Games may remain safe and protected, neighbouring cities may become targets, he said.
"Protecting all these people at the (Olympic) sites is a lot easier than protecting all of the cities around the area, because you can't have security forces everywhere. So something is going to be pared down, and that's where they're going to attack. They're going to take all of the easy targets," he said.
International Security Director with the Asia Pacific Foundation, Sajjan Gohel, also suggested more attacks may still come, presenting a "huge challenge" for Russian authorities.
Gohel said terror attacks don't need to happen in Sochi for them to have "massive ramifications" for the entire country.
"In a country the size of Russia, the security becomes even more complex. It's not so much a question of protecting Sochi, but it's also about protecting the major cities and transportation hubs," he said, adding that any attack during the Games will affect tourism, the economy and investor confidence.
"Counterterrorism agencies in Russia are going to have to step-up in the buildup to the Olympics, because it's very clear the terrorists are putting them on notice," he said.
Baird condemns "cowardly" attack
Meanwhile, Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird issued a statement Monday condemning the latest attack in Volgograd, stating that Canada is "appalled" by the "cowardly act of terrorism."
"We call for the perpetrators to be identified and brought to justice," Baird said. "On behalf of all Canadians, I extend my deepest sympathies to those who have lost loved ones or wish a full recovery to the injured."
The Canadian Olympic Committee says it’s working closely with the RCMP and Russian security agencies to ensure the Canadian team will be safe in Sochi.
Canadian speed skater Brianne Tutt told CTV News she plans to just focus on her training ahead of the Games.
“The athletes are going to be well protected in the (Olympic) village, so as long as we don’t stray outside and go anywhere else, we’re pretty much going to be 100 per cent safe,” she said.
With files from The Associated Press and a report from CTV’s Omar Sachedina