The U.S. State Department warned Americans on Friday of the potential for terrorism at the Sochi Olympics but said it was not aware of any specific threat to U.S. citizens.
In a “travel warning,” the department urged Americans to be vigilant about personal security at the February 7 to March 14 Olympic Games, and flagged the possibility of petty crime, inadequate medical care and hotel shortages.
It also highlighted a Russian law, much criticized by rights groups, that would make it a crime to publicly promote the equality of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
“Large-scale public events such as the Olympics present an attractive target for terrorists,” the State Department wrote in the travel warning, saying that Russian authorities have said they are taking appropriate security measures.
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.
“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 warning also highlighted the danger of petty crime and the possibility that political demonstrations -- which the Olympic charter bars at the site of the Games, but which Russian authorities say may take place seven miles from Sochi in the village of Khost -- could unexpectedly turn violent.
It also noted that Russia's State Duma lower house of parliament passed a law in June banning the “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” to minors which, in the U.S. government's view, applies to Russian citizens and foreigners.
“Russian citizens found guilty of violating the law could face a fine of up to 100,000 rubles. Foreign citizens face similar fines, up to 14 days in jail, and deportation,” it said.
Image: Russian police patrol in a car near accommodation sites and venues in the Olympic Park in Adler near Sochi
Photograph: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters