Ambassador Sergey Ivanovich Kislyak on the safety of the Sochi Olympics
Today on CNN’s State of the Union with Candy Crowley, Russia’s Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Ivanovich Kislyak spoke to Candy about safety concerns for athletes and their families at the Sochi Olympics.
For the latest updates and information, check out the following blog post.
The CNN Political Ticker
A transcript of the interview is available after the jump.
CROWLEY: Joining me now, the Russian ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak. Thank you so much for being here, Mr. Ambassador.
SERGEY KISLYAK, RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: Thank you for having me, Candy.
CROWLEY: Just straight up, the question is that these Olympics are going to take place, full speed ahead, in Sochi, which essentially is right next door toward to a war zone. Was it a mistake to choose that spot?
KISLYAK: It wasn’t for several reasons. One, Sochi is as safe as the rest of Russia. Secondly, Sochi is pretty unique a place in terms of its geographic, climate, and very uniqueness in Sochi being kind of resort area on the warm sea and you can also do downhill skiing. So, it’s wonderful place for Olympics, first. Secondly, it’s not close to war zone. There is no war zone in Russia.
CROWLEY: Well, it is certainly close where a lot of terrorist activity takes place as recently as last week and the week before. That was my — not an official war zone, you’re right —
KISLYAK: I will tell you that the phenomenon of terrorism is global in nature. So, wherever you are, you might become a target of a terrorist. But, we do not take it lightly so we have good planning. We have excellent specialists who I have working on it. We have put up pretty strong team that is working to deny terrorists any chance of success. And I am absolutely sure that we are going to succeed. Us (ph) is going to succeed.
CROWLEY: And let me show you a recent poll, this is from Quinnipiac University. It’s of Americans and they were asked about the likelihood of a terrorist attack at Sochi. Half of Americans thought it was very or somewhat likely that there would be a terrorist attack in Sochi. Your words of reassurance are?
KISLYAK: First of all, this is something that is going to happen in Russia. Absolute majority of people who will be at Olympics are Russians and they are pretty comfortable to go there and they know the country. They know the situation. That is the most important thing. I would tell you that out of 70 plus percent of tickets already sold to the Olympics, 78 plus percent of the tickets were sold in Russia.
CROWLEY: You’re not worried about empty seats from overseas.
KISLYAK: Not exactly. Because even today, you cannot buy a ticket for most popular sports. You cannot buy ticket for opening ceremony, for the closure, for important hockey team games, and also for number of other sports. So, we are pretty comfortable and there will be two weeks to go before that so there will be many more.
CROWLEY: So, what we — from what we have been told by a lot of intelligence officials here, as well as some members of Congress who are saying it out loud, the U.S. feels that there has not been enough of an intelligence exchange between the Russia and the U.S. over matters that the U.S. feels it could be helpful in sort of dissecting threats of that kind of thing. Why has that happened?
KISLYAK: It hasn’t happened.
CROWLEY: You don’t think that’s so?
KISLYAK: I don’t believe so, because I know that the cooperation is pretty good. I know that —
CROWLEY: Is it good enough?
KISLYAK: It’s good enough. And you need to remember, it’s Olympic Games that are being held in Russia. And we have pretty solid capabilities to deal with it on our own. We certainly rely on a lot of cooperation with the others, including the United States, and I’m rather comfortable about the quality of this cooperation.
And also, what I hear from specialists, not people who are judging from outside, they’re pretty comfortable with the level of cooperation that they are getting from Russian law enforcement. Moreover, they are saying themselves, even in public.
CROWLEY: And yet, when one U.S. official tells us that they learned about the threat that the so-called black widow or one or two of them had gotten into the Sochi perimeter, gotten past the Sochi perimeter, but they learned that from TV rather than from any exchange of information with the Russians. It just sounds like there’s some tension there.
KISLYAK: I don’t see any tension. I didn’t feel any tension, first. Secondly, I’m not sure that they can confirm the risk of a threat of the kind you are talking about. There was a report of some notice that were given circulated as a kind of look-out information. It doesn’t necessarily mean that there is an immediate threat.
CROWLEY: OK. Let me just try to clarify —
KISLYAK: Which is very normal precaution thing for law enforcement to do.
CROWLEY: Right. So, the thing that was interpreted as a black widow terrorist having penetrated the perimeter around Sochi, into Sochi itself, was not a “they’re there.” It was a watch for because these people might be there? It just came across quite differently.
KISLYAK: Well, I’m not working in law enforcement. So, had I worked in law enforcement, so I wouldn’t be able to give you all the information that people have. But I’m telling you that all the matters that I’ve been taking in Sochi are good enough in order to ensure that there will be joyful, peaceful, and Successful Olympic games.
CROWLEY: Do you think that U.S.-Russian tensions over Iran, over Syria, over Mr. Snowden, over a number of things have in any way hampered cooperation toward making this the Olympics that you envision?
KISLYAK: Two points. One, I do not believe that we have tensions over Iran. We have different points of view how to best organize the process of coming to a political solution to the issue. But those are technical differences and we have enjoyed pretty good cooperation on these issues. And we work in six-plus-one format together, as one entity, which I believe is pretty unique and pretty good because that helps negotiating a solution.
Secondly on Syria, with all the differences that we have, we also have a lot in common. It’s an understanding that any solution to the crisis need to be filed on political track. And as Mr. Lavrov and Mr. Kerry who are working hard to bring about the peace conference that we had seen.
So, having said so, I would suggest that there is no impact of alleged differences between us or alleged tension — there are differences, but there are no tensions because of this processes that could affect our cooperation on Sochi.
CROWLEY: And so, just one final word here to let you put a period on this, your message to Americans is that you believe these Olympics will be safe and happy and carry on as Olympics have.
KISLYAK: It’s not only that I believe. I’m absolutely certain because we are doing everything that is needed in order to make sure it’s going to be safe and it will be as safe as any other Olympics that can be held currently in the world.
CROWLEY: Thank you so much, Mr. Ambassador.
KISLYAK: Thank you.
CROWLEY: Appreciate your time with us today.
KISLYAK: Thank you very much.