The news: Just one month before the start of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia on February 7, Russian law enforcement is investigating a slew of suspicious deaths near the city.
Police have discovered six dead bodies in total in the Stavropol Territory near Sochi, including one that was found inside a car that exploded as police approached it. Police found three cars in all that were fitted with explosives.
These deaths – which some speculate have ties to organized crime – have put Russian law enforcement on combat alert as they prepare to secure the region for the Olympic games.
The backstory: These new investigations come less than two weeks ago after the two devastating terrorist attacks in Volgograd, Russia. Two separate bombings killed more than 30 people and injured dozens of others. Like the most recent unexplained deaths, no one has taken responsibility for the Volgograd bombings, either. Which means security officials aren't sure if they're random, isolated attacks or are part of something larger.
So no one's taking any chances. Russia has indeed stepped up its security for Sochi. Officials have organized a "special exclusion zone" for the area around Sochi, restricting the types of vehicles allowed in and out, and requiring everyone who enters to undergo an extensive security check.
U.S. officials have mixed feelings on the security for the Sochi games. The National Security Council said that they "would welcome closer cooperation" for security, and a former official in charge of security for the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 said he believed the chances of a security incident are "very high."
Russia is committing itself fully to security, and with a month to go, they believe there's no reason to think athletes and fans will be in any life-threatening danger. If anything, the recent bombings and unexplained deaths leading up to the games are reminders of the stakes of an international spectacle like the Olympics, and the work that must be put in to ensure everyone remains safe.