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US offers security help ahead of Sochi Games

Updated: 2014-01-06 07:55
By Agencies in Moscow ( China Daily)


US offers security help ahead of Sochi Games

Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) takes part in a friendly hockey game in the Bolshoi Ice Palace near Sochi on Saturday. Alexei Nikolskiy / RIA Novosti / Kremlin via Reuters

The United States said on Sunday it was ready to help Russia with security for the Winter Olympics in Sochi, following the two bombings in Volgograd on Dec 29 and 30 that killed at least 34 people.

Amid intense international scrutiny of the security arrangements for the upcoming Olympics, Russian President Vladmir Putin vowed to destroy Russia's domestic terrorist cells and secure the safety of the Games, which are to be held only 640 kilometers from the scene of the bombings.

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called his Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoigu, to discuss the recent terror attacks in Russia, promising to provide security assistance for the Olympics.

During the phone conversation, Hagel offered his condolences for the Volgograd attacks and talked about the need to remain vigilant against threats and to consider additional opportunities for deepening cooperation on counterterrorism, Pentagon Press secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said.

"Secretary Hagel also assured Minister Shoigu that the United States stands ready to provide security assistance to Russia for the Winter Olympics in Sochi, if requested," Kirby said.

The Pentagon denied speculation that some countries, including the US, might boycott the games.

Earlier reports said that the US and some European countries would boycott the games.

The circumstances surrounding the Sochi Winter Olympics, scheduled for Feb 7 to 23, and the Moscow Summer Olympics in 1980, which the US boycotted, are completely different, said Ye Hailin, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

"It makes no sense for the US and some European countries to boycott Sochi," he said.

Ye said the dispute between Russia and the US is merely about Russia's attitude toward gay rights, which only involves problems with domestic law.

"The US won't ruin its relationship with Russia because of gay rights," said Ye.

Putin flew to Sochi on Jan 3 for a visit lasting several days. He attended a rehearsal of the opening ceremony on Saturday and tried out the Olympic slopes on a ski trip.

Putin's press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, said earlier that Putin would inspect all the Olympic facilities at Sochi's mountain and coastal clusters.

Presidents wear red

During the inspection, Putin even teamed up with Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko to play hockey against local stars on Saturday. The presidents' team won the game.

"Knowing that a game with hockey stars was planned at Sochi and knowing of Alexander Lukashenko's passion for the sport, Putin invited him to Sochi," Peskov said.

Both presidents wore red, with Putin in a number 11 jersey and Lukashenko wearing number 1. Their team was beefed up by former star Pavel Bure, as well as Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

The eyes of the world will be trained on Russia when the Sochi Winter Olympics open on Feb 7, said Andrew C. Kuchins, director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in the US.

"Putin treated the games as reflecting Russia's return as a great power since he first took office on Dec 31, 1999. But although he could possibly remain Russian leader for another 10 years, it is hard not to look at the Olympics in terms of his legacy," Kuchins wrote in a column for CNN.

Ren Qi contributed tothis story.

AFP - Reuters