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In an exclusive interview with CNN's Jake Tapper Monday, outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul praised Vladimir Putin's handling of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, calling the games an "achievement" for the Russian leader's administration.
"It is an achievement," McFaul, speaking via satellite from Moscow, told Tapper. "I do give credit to the government here."
McFaul's statement is high praise for a government that fought off concerns of terror attacks at the milestone event for the Putin-led country. A pair of December attacks in Volgograd, a major transit hub only 400 miles away from Sochi, claimed the lives of more than 30 people and ignited concerns over security as the Olympics approached.
A CNN/ORC poll taken before the opening ceremonies showed 57% of Americans said they thought a terrorist attack on the Sochi Games was likely. Both the December attacks and intelligence reports even prompted some U.S. lawmakers to publicly express concerns with the host-nation's lack of cooperation with American agencies in securing the games.
In a January appearance on CNN's "State of the Union," Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, told Candy Crowley that he "would not go" to the Sochi Games and said he would not send his family because of security concerns.
"It's just such a rich target," King said at the time. "It would be a stretch, I think, to say I'd send my family."
But, now that the games have ended without any major incidents, McFaul had nothing but praise for Russia's performance on the global stage when it came to keeping American athletes safe.
"From the very first day I became ambassador, this has been a number one focus for us, planning for the Olympics and most of our planning has to do about security," McFaul said. "The cooperation we eventually enjoyed with them made us all feel better about having our athletes there and having our spectators there.
"We still have the Paralympics to go. But so far, so good," McFaul added."
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The Lead with Jake Tapper draws not only on Tapper’s deep knowledge of politics and national issues, but also seeks to examine and advance stories across a wide range of topics that demonstrate his own curiosities and interests. Compelling headlines come from around the country and the globe, from politics to money, sports to popular culture, based on news drivers of the day.
The Lead with Jake Tapper airs weekdays at 4 p.m. ET.
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