White House says it would like 'closer cooperation' with Russia on Olympic security

McClatchy Washington BureauDecember 30, 2013 

TRAVEL WLT-SOCHI 1 LA

The Laura ski complex, in the Sochi mountain sports area of Krasnaya Polyana, will host many 2014 Olympic events in February.

CHRISTOPHER REYNOLDS — Los Angeles Times/MCT

The White House says it would like "closer cooperation" with Russia to ensure the safety of Olympic athletes and spectators in the wake of back to back terrorist attacks that struck the Russian city of Volgograd, killing more than 30.

In a statement condemning the attacks, National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said Monday that the U.S. government has offered its full support to the Russian government in security preparations for the Winter Olympics, which will be held in Sochi, Russia.

And she added, "we would welcome the opportunity for closer cooperation for the safety of the athletes, spectators, and other participants."

Though President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin have had an icy relationship, Hayden said the U.S. "stands in solidarity with the Russian people against terrorism."

The nation, she said, "sends deepest condolences to the families of the victims with hopes for the rapid healing of those wounded."

The attacks, which have killed more than 30 people, are raising concerns about security for the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

At the State Department, spokeswoman Marie Harf said U.S. citizens planning on attending the games "should remain alert regarding their personal security at all times."

She noted that threats had been made against the games and that acts of terrorism, including bombings, were continuing to occur in Russia.

"This is an exciting, positive, happy international sporting event," she said, "But people going there do need to maintain vigilance and watch out for their own security and safety."

Harf said the department's Diplomatic Security personnel -- which is responsible as the security lead for the United States -- has been working with the Russians on security for months and is "ready to support any way we can to help with the security situation."

Neither Obama nor vice president Joe Biden will attend the games; Obama earlier this month named an official U.S. delegation to the Olympics that includes three openly gay members in a move that was widely viewed as a direct rebuke at Putin for recent anti-propaganda laws that are considered anti-gay.

Obama in an end of the year press conference said the delegation speaks for itself.

"When it comes to the Olympics and athletic performance, we do not make distinctions on the basis of sexual orientation," Obama said. "We judge people on how they perform, both on the court, and off the court, on the field, and off the field. And that is a value that I think is at the heart of not just America, but American sports."

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