Security vs Corruption at Sochi
With a little more than 100 days to go until the Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony in Sochi, security has become a central focus. Any security system has its weak spots, but as two incidents this week have shown, there are too many holes in Russia’s system.
The first incident was a bus bombing in Volgograd on Monday afternoon [http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2013/10/a_suspected_black_wi.php]. A female suicide bomber boarded a bus and blew it up. As I wrote over in my Global Voices column [http://globalvoicesonline.org/2013/10/23/in-wake-of-suicide-bombing-russians-question-their-security/], some in the Russian blogosphere were quick to point out that after 14 years of Putin, Russia’s security apparatus still cannot protect its citizens.
The second incident actually took place last month, but came to light only yesterday. RIA Novosti [http://en.ria.ru/crime/20131023/184311460/Passenger-Skips-Russian-Airport-Checks-for-Bribe-Worth-47.html] reported that a man in Yakutsk bought a domestic plane ticket on a discount, using a false passport. When he arrived at the airport, he bribed a security officer to let him through “pre-flight inspection” with a bottle of cognac and a box of chocolates worth approximately $47. The police arrested the culprit before boarding the plane, but the fact that he got as far as the departure lounge is worrying.
Two stories, two different outcomes, but both reveal the single greatest threat to security surrounding the Winter Olympics in Sochi. There has been a lot of outrage about the security system put in place by the Russian security services for Sochi 2014. A report [http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/06/sochi-olympic-venues-kremlin-surveillance] by security experts Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan “found that phone and Internet networks in Sochi have been retrofitted with a surveillance system, known by its Russian acronym Sorm, which allows the FSB to eavesdrop on phone and data communications in the city [Sochi]” [http://www.themoscowtimes.com/olympic_coverage/article/all-communications-traffic-to-be-monitored-at-sochi-olympics-report-says/487352.html].
But what good is a state of the art security system if a man can bribe his way onto a plane for under $50?