DENVER – U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman said Wednesday that he believes that friction between the U.S. and Russia is delaying the recovery efforts in finding Littleton Police Officer Steven Beare, who went missing on a remote mountain in Russia three months ago.
Beare still hasn’t been found after weeks of searches earlier this summer and is presumed dead.
He had set out to climb Mount Elbrus on a solo expedition, but was caught in a snowstorm and never returned to camp.
Russian search and rescue teams had been helping an American team put together by Beare’s wife until the search was suspended in July.
Coffman had been working with former Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak on the recovery efforts before Kislyak was recalled in August.
But he told Denver7 Wednesday that efforts to get American search and rescue crewmembers new visas have stalled, and blamed the impasse on the chilly relations between Russia and the U.S. over allegations that Russia interfered in last year’s election.
Coffman said he was requesting a new meeting with the new ambassador, Anatoly Antonov.
"I am requesting a meeting with the new Russian ambassador to see if he can help expedite the visas, but I fear that this situation is a casualty of the increased diplomatic friction between the United States and Russia that is leading to retaliation in other areas,” Coffman said.
Beare’s wife, Olivia Beare, told Denver7 on Wednesday she was frustrating that politics has gotten in the middle of the search for her husband.
She said his body must be recovered before she can file to receive his life insurance benefits and others.
“If we find him, we’ll be able to get it,” Olivia said. “If we don’t find him, I’ll be in court forever paying lawyer fees, I’m sure.”
Steven had planned to summit the world’s tallest peaks on each continent, and had already conquered Mt. Kiliminjaro. Now, Olivia says she plans on finishing his quest.
“I just know if he didn’t get caught in the storm, he would do all these things with me,” she said.
Their second child is set to arrive soon. She’s also started a nonprofit to help raise money for recovery efforts for other Americans who go missing while climbing abroad.