Russian deputy prime minister Dmitry Kozak defended brutal police treatment of protest group Pussy Riot in Sochi, insisting at a media briefing today that they had provoked a conflict.
Band members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, who served prison sentences after performing a protest song against Russia president Vladimir Putin in a church, were among five band members and a cameraman attacked by Cossacks as they performed under a sign advertising the Games on Wednesday.
Footage showed the Cossacks whipping the band members, pulling off their ski masks, and throwing them to the floor.
Kozak, speaking at the daily IOC/Sochi 2014 briefing, said of the incident: “The girls came here specifically to provoke this conflict.
“They had been searching for it for some time and finally they had this confict with local inhabitants – this hooligan act.”
Security in Sochi was a major focus before the Games with the threat of terrorism a major concern following the attacks in Volgograd, when dozens were killed by two terrorist bombs.
Kozak, asked if he had been worried about a security breach at the Games, said: “We were certain that our security forces would be able to complete the tasks given to them.
“Security threats today are of a global nature, with terrorist organisations, so of course we were concerned about that.
“The Olympic Games became a target for the terrorists. But our law enforcement agencies and our special forces, in co-operation with all the countries of the world, all the special services in the world, including Great Britain, joined in the effort to prevent terrorism. All of us have fulfilled this task brilliantly.”
Kozak was quizzed about the hefty price tag on the Sochi Games – estimated to be £30billion – and said the majority of the money was spent on infrastructure for the Sochi area.
He said: “The sport venues had to be built from scratch. Most of the money was spent on the infrastructure to modernise the city.”
Kozak, who said the real cost to Russian taxpayers was 3.5billion US dollars, also dismissed as “speculation” reports of corruption and embezzlement in relation to money spent on the Games.
“We had tough control over the budget money,” he said. “According to the results of the investigation we didn’t find any major incidents of corruption.
“We ask anyone who says that there is to provide specific fact of the corruption. If they do we will carry out investigations and, if proved, the culprits will be punished. But so far we don’t have this informaton, so it’s just speculation.”