On August 7, 2008, a bomb exploded on a public beach in Sochi, Russia, proposed home of the 2014 Olympic Games. Two people were killed, eight injured. Later that month, the Russian government claimed to have intercepted another bombing before it occurred.
It wasn’t the first month that year for deadly terrorist bombings in Sochi. In June, a bomb had exploded in the city’s Lazarev district killing one civilian, and the event was trumpted by Kavkaz Center, the voice of the Chechen rebels. A bomb had been placed in the same district a month earlier, and taken both the arms off of the policeman who tried to disarm it. Later that same month, yet another bomb went off — this time in Sochi’s Adler district, killing one.
The terrorists were not satisfied with their tally of four lives in 2008; the bombings have continued apace this year, bringing the total number of fatalities to six, with nearly 50 others injured. Last week police in Sochi arrested two men believed to have been associated with at least six of the killings and 19 of the injuries. The identity of the two was as shocking as their venal deeds — they were not angry Chechen infiltrators, but rather a local policeman and a TV cameraman.
It’s hard to think of a more emphatic warning of what could happen when the world’s elite athletes gather for the 2014 games than this string of savage terror attacks. Russia’s list of furious enemies is long and deep, and runs from Estonia to Chechnya and Dagestan to Georgia. All of them will be appalled to see Russia parading itself before the world as if it were a bastion of democracy, and any one of them could produce extremist elements capable of lashing out at any time.
And it’s hard not to feel nauseous at the way the world’s media have neglected this story and their paramount obligation to give people basic information they need to keep their children safe.
Strapped for cash, Russia will be totally unable to meet the threat it faces in Sochi. It will cut corners, and that will open doors to terrorist attack that will make action simply inevitable and irresistible. It has already announced that it cannot even maintain its security presence in Chechnya itself, much less deal with the threat of terrorist violence across the country. Earlier this week we documented the horrifying new fault lines opening under Russia’s economy as it goes crawling to international lenders for support, and we pointed out how experts believe things will only get worse towards the end of the year.
The world must act now to seize the Olympics back from Russia. The world’s media must wake up and start doing its job. Even if the risk of terrorism is ignored, any civilized person should admit that Russia’s barbaric invasion of Georgia disqualifies it from being an Olympic host. But the risk of terrorism is very real. Russia has lost control of the Dagestan region, it is formally giving up on Chechnya, and Sochi is being bombed on a monthly basis. Chechnya’s ruler, Ramzan Kadyrov, is shamelessly assassinating his political enemies in various locations around the globe, setting the clear precedent for bloodletting.
If the world does not act after seeing all these warnings, it will have the innocent blood of its young athletes on its hands in the winter of 2014.