On Friday the State Department issued a travel alert warning Americans planning to travel to Russia for the Sochi Winter Olympics to “remain attentive regarding their personal security at all times.”
In a travel warning, the department urged Americans to be vigilant about personal security at the Feb 7 to March 14 Olympic Games, and flagged the possibility of petty crime, inadequate medical care and hotel shortages.
“The Olympics are the first large-scale event to be held in Sochi and medical capacity and infrastructure in the region are untested for handling the volume of visitors expected for the Olympics,” the State Department wrote in the travel warning, saying that Russian authorities have said they are taking appropriate security measures.
It continued: “Large-scale public events such as the Olympics present an attractive target for terrorists.”
However, the department noted what it described as “acts of terrorism” in Russia during the final three months of last year, including three suicide bombings that targeted public transportation in city of Volgograd, 600 miles from Sochi, reports Reuters.
“There is no indication of a specific threat to U.S. institutions or citizens, but U.S. citizens should be aware of their personal surroundings and follow good security practices,” it said.
The State Department specified one terrorist organization in particular: the Caucasus Emirate. According to U.S. officials, the group has requested attacks on the Olympics and is responsible for previous attacks on public venues and transportation. Still, officials admit that it’s uncertain whether the group is capable of carrying out an attack at the Winter Games.
The Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation has said 100,000 security personnel would be on duty at the Games and around Sochi. On Tuesday, authorities enacted a stringent security regime in Sochi barring entrance to all vehicles except for those registered in the city or with special Olympics passes, says the Independent.
“Russian authorities have indicated that they are taking appropriate security measures in Sochi in light of this,” the State Department said.
“Acts of terrorism, including bombings and hostage takings, continue to occur in Russia, particularly in the North Caucasus region. There is no indication of a specific threat to U.S. institutions or citizens, but U.S. citizens should be aware of their personal surroundings and follow good security practices.”
President Vladimir Putin has personally overseen preparations for the Olympics, his pet project intended to showcase Russia’s power and wealth. Last week, he inspected preparations for the games and went skiing in the mountains near Sochi.
Specifically, the alert calls out risks that LGBT Americans could face in light of a recently enacted Russian law prohibiting “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations.”
“Russian citizens found guilty of violating the law could face a fine of up to 100,000 rubles ($3,100). Foreign citizens face similar fines, up to 14 days in jail, and deportation,” the alert states.
“The law makes it a crime to promote LGBT equality in public, but lacks concrete legal definitions for key terms. Russian authorities have indicated a broad interpretation of what constitutes ‘LGBT propaganda,’ and provided vague guidance as to which actions will be interpreted by authorities as ‘LGBT propaganda.'”