Russian government confirms gay protesters to be arrested at Olympics

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2008, along with the Prime Minister, Viktor Zubkov (left), and Deputy Prime Minister, Alexander Zhukov (right).
Image: Presidential Press and Information Office, Russian Government.

Russia's Interior Ministry confirmed yesterday that the police will enforce the law banning "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations" during the 2014 Winter Olympics to be held in Sochi in February.

The statement said "law enforcement agencies can have no qualms with people who harbour a nontraditional sexual orientation" so long as they do not promote homosexuality to minors, "do not conduct any kind of provocation and take part in the Olympics peacefully."

The statement continued: "Any discussion on violating the rights of representatives of nontraditional sexual orientations, stopping them from taking part in the Olympic Games or discrimination of athletes and guests of the Olympics according to their sexual orientation is totally unfounded and contrived."

Alexander Zhukov, the deputy Prime Minister and head of the Russian Olympics Committee told the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti: "If a person does not put across his views in the presence of children, no measures against him can be taken. People of nontraditional sexual orientations can take part in the competitions and all other events at the games unhindered, without any fear for their safety whatsoever."

The International Olympics Committee stated last week they would seek clarification from the Russian government after calls from gay activists to relocate the event.

Stephen Fry in 2008.
Image: Free Software Foundation.

Last week, British actor Stephen Fry wrote an open letter to British Prime Minister David Cameron arguing the Winter Games ought to be relocated, and Russian President Vladimir Putin "is making scapegoats of gay people, just as Hitler did Jews". Fry argued "[anti-gay] beatings, murders and humiliations are ignored by the police. Any defence or sane discussion of homosexuality is against the law."

Fry attended a protest in London on Saturday against the Russian laws on homosexuality. At the protest he said: "All homophobic regimes say this — they say they do it for the children. They do this to stop children being propogandised at by gay people. That's not the situation at all. What they have done is unleashed thugs who have done unspeakable things to teenagers, lured them, beaten them, humiliated them, tortured them. This continues to be the case."

On Twitter, David Cameron responded to Fry's call for a relocation of the Games: "Thank you for your note @stephenfry. I share your deep concern about the abuse of gay people in Russia. However, I believe we can better challenge prejudice as we attend, rather than boycotting the Winter Olympics."

Lord Sebastian Coe, head of the British Olympic Association, also rejected the call for a boycott or relocation: "only damage one group of people, and that is the athletes. It is an issue that needs to be addressed, but not an issue that is one of a boycott."

Coe also argued the Olympics and other sporting events help promote social change: "International sport is not an inhibitor of social change, it actually has quite strong catalytic effects. I am a profound believer that the relationships developed through international sport are often in the infancy of social change."

U.S. President Barack Obama has also rejected a call for a boycott. At a press conference at the White House last week, he stated: "I want to just make very clear right now: I do not think it’s appropriate to boycott the Olympics[...] We’ve got a bunch of Americans out there who are training hard, who are doing everything they can to succeed. Nobody’s more offended than me by some of the anti-gay and -lesbian legislation that you’ve been seeing in Russia."