Sochi Athletes Not Exempt From Persecution
Published: August 7, 2013 (Issue # 1772)
MOSCOW — Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said last Thursday that Russia’s legislation against “gay propaganda” would apply to athletes and visitors of the Olympic Games in Sochi this winter, despite earlier reassurances by the International Olympic Committee that it would not.
The announcement comes as protests against the legislation intensify in the West and calls for an Olympic boycott spread, with the most recent displays of outrage being American bartenders pouring vodka outside the Russian Consulate in New York last Wednesday.
The protests have been stepped up after Western media reported that Russia’s law banning “homosexual propaganda among minors” would leave the games’ gay visitors, including athletes, audience and journalists, susceptible to arrest.
Western governments and some travel agencies have gone so far as to issue warnings about traveling to Russia, and a number of politicians, gay activists and human rights groups have called for a boycott of the Sochi Olympics, Olympic sponsors and “all things Russian” in general.
After increasing international pressure, the International Olympic Committee said last Friday it had received assurances from the Russian government that the anti-gay legislation would not apply to Olympic athletes and visitors during the games.
But Mutko was quick to refute that, saying that “the law does not ban non-traditional sexual orientations, but does ban propaganda among minors.”
“No one bans a gay athlete from coming to the Sochi Olympics, but if a person goes to the street and starts promoting it, then of course he or she will be brought to justice. Laws of a country to which a person comes must be respected, even though the person is an athlete,” Mutko told R-Sport on Thursday.
St. Petersburg lawmaker Vitaly Milonov, one of the controversial law’s authors, also said the law must be in effect during the Olympics and applied to visitors.
The law, which stipulates fines of between 4,000 rubles and one million rubles ($124 to $31,000) for promoting homosexuality among minors, was signed by President Vladimir Putin in late June, and it has been provoking demonstrations around the world ever since then.
Wednesday’s vodka dumping stunt in New York was part of a wider campaign to boycott all Russian brands of vodka. Several bars throughout the U.S. have stopped selling Russian brands to protest the anti-gay law.
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