MOSCOW, Russia – An alarmed Russia Thursday intensified security at the Winter Olympics venue in Sochi after US issued warning that explosive hidden in toothpaste tube could be smuggled in to disrupt the grand sporting event that begins Friday.
The Department of Homeland Security alerted airlines flying to Russia that they should be on the lookout for toothpaste and cosmetics tubes for hidden explosive substances
Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told US news media that they didn’t have any specific information or any “specific threat”.
But the department “regularly shares information with domestic and international partners, including those associated with international events such as the Sochi Olympics”, he said.
In Russia, an estimated 40,000 security troops have been stationed around the Olympic venues in Sochi that President Vladimir Putin called a “ring of steel” to protect the games
The venue for the games is just west of the restive Caucasus region of southern Russia.
The Russian government however downplayed the US warning.
Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak at an Olympics press conference in Sochi said that he would personally guarantee the safety of anyone attending the Games and that concerns over fears of terrorism were overstated.
“Terrorism is always a global concern in any place on the planet,” Kozak said.
“The concern about Sochi and Russia is a little too much. The level of fear should be lower. The threat in Sochi is no worse than in New York, Washington or Boston.”
Kozak did not comment on the reports about explosives possibly hidden in toothpaste tubes.
Meanwhile, Russian news media reported that a key suspect in the twin suicide bombings in Volgograd in late December had been shot dead by security forces in the Dagestani town of Izberbash.
Dzhamaldin Mirzayev, 30, was suspected of training the two suicide bombers whose attacks on the Volgograd train station and commuter tram killed 34 people, said Rusel Temirbekov, a spokesman for the Russian Investigative Committee.