SOCHI, Russia — The Russian ambassador to the U.S. said Sunday he’s “absolutely certain” the Olympic Games in Sochi next month will be safe from terrorist attacks. He pushed back against reports of a “black widow” threat.
“There was a report of some notice that (was) circulated as a kind of lookout information. It doesn’t necessarily mean that there is an immediate threat,” Sergey Kislyak said in an exclusive interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Police in Sochi handed out fliers at area hotels warning of a woman they believe could be a terrorist and who may currently be in the city.
One flier asks workers to be on the lookout for Ruzanna “Salima” Ibragimova, described as the widow of a member of a militant group from the Caucasus region, in southern Russia, which has seen repeated terrorist attacks in the past month.
The woman, according to the flier, may be involved in organizing “a terrorist act within the 2014 Olympic region.”
Pressed on whether there should be concerns about the suspected “black widow,” Kislyak said Sunday he doesn’t have the same information as law enforcement, but he argued security is in place to “ensure that there will be joyful, peaceful, and successful Olympic games.”
“We have good planning. We have excellent specialists who are working on it. We have put up pretty strong team that is working to deny terrorists any chance of success,” he told CNN’s chief political correspondent Candy Crowley. “And I am absolutely sure that we are going to succeed.”
With less than two weeks before the opening ceremony on February 6, the United States has been issuing warnings and creating backup plans.
State Department officials on Friday cautioned American athletes against wearing their Olympic uniforms outside of sporting events in Sochi. The U.S. military says it will have up to two warships and several transport aircraft on standby help evacuate American officials and athletes from the games, if ordered, a U.S. official said last week.
According to a recent Quinnipiac Poll, 50% of Americans say it’s very or somewhat likely that the Winter Olympics in Sochi will see a terrorist attack, while 45% say it’s very or somewhat unlikely.
U.S. officials have said they’ve offered Russia assistance with its security plans, but the country has not fully taken up the offer. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Russia has not asked the United States for “any specific assistance or technology.”
Rep. Peter King, chair of the House counterterrorism and intelligence subcommittee, said Sunday “the Russians have not been cooperating with us or with other countries anywhere near the extent that, for instance, the Greeks or the Chinese or the Brits did.”
“The Russians don’t want to share what they have, because they’re afraid that that will enable us to learn how they obtain their intelligence and we’ll use it against them in the future,” the Republican from New York said on ABC’s “This Week.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin says the country has stepped up its security efforts, and Kislyak said the U.S.-Russia cooperation is “good enough.”
“We have pretty solid capabilities to deal with it on our own,” he said. “We certainly rely on a lot of cooperation with the others, including the United States, and I’m rather comfortable about the quality of this cooperation.”
The ambassador argued that a vast majority of spectators at the Olympics will be Russians, indicating that the people who know the area best consider it safe.
“I’m absolutely certain … we are doing everything that is needed in order to make sure it’s going to be safe, and it will be as safe as any other Olympics that can be held currently in the world,” he said.
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