By Karl Ritter
SOCHI, RUSSIA: Despite a temporary Russian ban on liquids in carry-on luggage, some air travelers heading to the Sochi Olympics through Moscow brought toothpaste and other toiletries past security checkpoints without any problems.
Security concerns ahead of the Sochi Games were renewed after the U.S. Homeland Security Department warned airlines flying to Russia that terrorists may try to smuggle explosives into the country in toothpaste tubes. The agency on Thursday banned all liquids from carry-on luggage for nonstop flights from the United States to Russia.
Yet six Associated Press employees arriving in Moscow from across the world or beginning their journey there passed through security without having to remove toothpaste, hand lotion or water bottles from their carry-on luggage. Another AP journalist, arriving in Moscow from Singapore, said a security official checked his deodorant and then returned it, but didn’t notice or make mention of a very small tube of toothpaste.
Other air travelers heading to Sochi also said their experience of Russian airport security was surprisingly hassle-free.
“It was pretty chill. I had an empty 1½-liter water bottle because I was hoping to fill it up on the plane but no one checked it,” said Matt Segal, an Australian tourist who traveled from Moscow to Sochi on Thursday. “No one has pulled it out and asked about it.”
The no-liquids rule applies to anyone departing from a Russian airport, including transit passengers, said Russian Transport Ministry spokeswoman Nataliya Nesterova. She said it was up to airports to make sure it is enforced.
The sporadic enforcement underscores the difficulty that governments face in ensuring that airport personnel in many places, screening thousands of impatient people in a compressed period of time, maintain consistent practices as they try to prevent attacks. And even if practices are consistent inside a single country, the many points of transit that travelers pass through en route to Sochi fall under the jurisdiction of multiple governments.
An AP journalist starting a three-leg trip to Sochi in Detroit on Thursday had to leave his toothpaste and deodorant behind after an airline official told him he couldn’t bring those items to Russia in his carry-on luggage.
Moscow airport officials didn’t return calls Thursday seeking comment about enforcement of the ban, which runs from January to April, well after the Olympics and Paralympics end. Russian deputy prime minister Dmitry Kozak had no comment on the toothpaste warning from Homeland Security in the United States.
“I don’t have any reaction at this point. We’re checking this information,” Kozak said at a news conference in Olympic Park.
He said Russia can guarantee the safety of people attending the Sochi Games as efficiently as any other government hosting a major event.