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Vengeance in Sochi

Published: January 15, 2014 (Issue # 1793)


Russia’s Islamist insurgents may attack the Sochi Winter Olympics with drones.

These will not be like the drones used by the Americans, armed with Hellfire missiles. Rather they will be jerry-rigged unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, of the sort easily available online for a few thousand dollars. Such remote-controlled UAVs are probably unstoppable at low altitudes and will not need much armament to cause mayhem.

The Chechens, in particular, have already proved innovative in pioneering new methods for inducing terror. In fact, they are credited with the first, and so far the only, instance of nuclear terrorism. In November 1995, Chechen rebels buried a dirty bomb — cesium 137 wrapped around dynamite — in Moscow’s Izmailovo Park. The media was alerted and the unearthing of the bomb was televised live, possibly spreading as much fear as if it had actually exploded. A UAV carrying a similar device would not have to explode either to cause pandemonium at the Winter Games.

In 2004, the president of Chechnya was assassinated by a bomb blast while attending a Victory Day ceremony celebrating the Soviet defeat of the Nazis in World War II. The explosive device had apparently been built into the reviewing stand long before the event, possibly when the stadium was undergoing repairs. This, too, was inventive compared to the usual suicide bomber armed with dynamite, shrapnel and the readiness to die.

Two bombings of that sort in Volgograd in late December — one in the main train station, the other on a municipal bus — nevertheless sent ripples of fear across Russia. The number of people attending New Year’s Eve festivities in Moscow was down by 50 percent. About 50,000 people turned out and were watched over by 5,000 police.

The history of relations between Russia and the peoples of the North Caucasus, especially Chechnya, is long and tangled. Some historians date the initial clash between Russia and Chechnya to the time of Peter the Great at the beginning of the 18th century, while others date the conflict to the period of Catherine the Great at the end of that century. In any case, the grievances are many and the memories long, with the victims always having longer memories than the victors.

Among all the traumas and atrocities, one stands out. In early 1944, on Josef Stalin’s direct orders, the entire Chechen and Ingush nations — every man, woman and child were rounded up, packed into cattle cars and exiled to Kazakhstan. Those unfit to travel were herded into buildings that were then set on fire or were machine-gunned. Something like a quarter or a third of those exiled died en route or in the first harsh years. Some have termed this attempted genocide.

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Sunday, Apr. 20


Celebrate Easter at Pavlovsk during the Easter Fair that begins today and continues through next Sunday. Visitors will have the chance to paint Easter eggs and children can take part in games as well as help decorate a tree in honor of Christianity’s holiest day.


Today is one of the final days to see the exhibit Cacti — Children of the Sun at the Peter the Great Botanical Garden. Starting Apr. 17, budding botanists will marvel at the variety and beauty of the desert’s most iconic plant.


Monday, Apr. 21


Improve your grasp of Neruda, Bolano and Marquez at TrueDA’s Beginners Spanish Lesson this evening at their location on the Petrograd Side. An experienced teacher will be on hand to help all attendees better understand the intricacies of the language and improve their accent.


Tuesday, Apr. 22


SPIBA’s Breakfast with the Director event series continues as the association welcomes Andrei Barannikov, general director of SPN Communications, to the Anna Pavlova Hall of the Angleterre Hotel this morning at 9 a.m. Attendees must confirm their participation by Apr. 21.


The AmCham Environment, Health and Safety Committee Meeting is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. this morning in the their St. Petersburg office.