Little security hassle for Sochi air travelers

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SOCHI, Russia (AP) -- Despite a temporary Russian ban on liquids in carry-on luggage, some air travelers heading to the Sochi Olympics through Moscow have 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.

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 1-1/2 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 seemingly 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 that could be both human and public-relations disasters.

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.

Moscow airport officials didn't immediately 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 Thursday on the toothpaste warning from the U.S. Homeland Security Department in the U.S.

"I don't have any reaction at this point. We're checking this information," Kozak told reporters Thursday 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.

"I believe that warnings about Sochi, about Russia were superfluous, and the threat levels in Sochi are just like they are in Boston or London," he said. "I would like to reiterate that security in Sochi will be no worse than in New York, London, Washington or Boston."

Some AP employees traveling directly to Sochi from Frankfurt, Germany, passed through security there carrying travel-sized liquids, including toothpaste.

A photographer who brought a Ziploc bag with a half a dozen liquid items said he was asked to take it out in Boston, where he began his trip, but security officials in Frankfurt left it in the bag, while inspecting his camera equipment.

No-liquid rules appear to be enforced more strictly at train stations in the Sochi area. One AP journalist was stopped Feb. 2 at a security checkpoint in the train station in Krasnaya Polyana, the mountain hub for the games, because his hand luggage contained a tube of leather conditioner. He was asked to open it, stick a finger in it and rub it onto his shoe.

Another AP journalist who carried a water bottle at a train station in Sochi had to hand it over to security officials who examined it with a scanning device to make sure its contents were not flammable.

In late December, bombings of a train station and an electric trolleybus killed 34 people in the southern city of Volgograd, heightening security fears ahead of the Sochi Olympics.

The leader of the Caucasus Emirate, an umbrella group for militants seeking to establish an independent Islamic state in the North Caucasus, has urged his followers to strike the Winter Olympics.

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Olympic Security in Sochi
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Little security hassle for Sochi air travelers
Security guard stands in front of a banner with the Olympic Rings at the Olympic Park in the Adler district of Sochi on February 2, 2014. Sochi will host the 2014 Winter Olympic Games from February 7 to February 23. AFP PHOTO / POOL / Alexander Demianchuk (Photo credit should read ALEXANDER DEMIANCHUK/AFP/Getty Images)
A Russian security forces K-9 officer patrols with his dog near the finish area of the Alpine ski course ahead of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Gero Breloer)
Russian security personnel patrol Olympic park ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
Russian security personnel patrol Olympic park ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
A military helicopter hovers over the mountain cluster as a passenger jet passes by prior to the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. With militant groups threatening to attack during the next few weeks, security and the safety of competitors and visitors to the coastal area and in the nearby mountains that will host the events has become both heightened and inescapable. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)
Unidentified cross country skiers pass by a security camera as a security guard watches them as they train prior to the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 02: A CCTV camera monitors activity inside the Olympic Park ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics on February 2, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)
A Russian police officer searches a driver as his vehicle is also screened at an entrance to the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games park, Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. The Olympics begin on Feb. 7. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Volunteers wait to enter through a security check point at the Coastal Village where athletes will reside during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Pavel Govolkin, Pool)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 04: Volunteers walk through security ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at the Olympic Park on February 4, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Russian security personnel wait for deployment in the Olympic Park as security measures continue to be implemented for the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)
A Russian security personnel walks between the fences set up at the Gorki Media Center prior to the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Police and security personnel stand at the RusSki Gorki Jumping Center of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia, where the snow and sliding sports venues for the 2014 Winter Olympics are located. (AP Photo/Gero Breloer)
Russian security personal stand in the medal plaza near the Oylmpic flame as security measures are stepped in preparation for the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)
Security personnel walk with their dogs outside Fisht Olympic Stadium at the 2014 Winter Olympics Monday, Jan. 27, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. The Olympics begin Feb. 7th. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 04: Security services ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Olympic Park on February 4, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
A Russian security officer guards the Alpine Center in the Rosa Khutor Alpine Resort near Sochi onsFebruary 4, 2014. The opening ceremony of the Sochi Olympic Winter will take place on February 7, 2014. AFP PHOTO / OLIVIER MORIN (Photo credit should read OLIVIER MORIN/AFP/Getty Images)
Plain-clothes policemen patrol the Rosa Khutor Alpine center in the mountain cluster on February 2, 2014 prior to the start of 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
Russian security members patrol by the olympic cauldron and medals plaza in the seaside cluster prior to the start of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics on February 2, 2014 in Sochi. AFP PHOTO / ALEXANDER NEMENOV (Photo credit should read ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Russian police inspect a tunnel on the road between and Krasnaya as increased security measures are put into place ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. Outdor snow sports and sliding track events will take place in Krasnaya Polyana. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
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