The Washington Post reports that official Russian government newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta has published a decree signed by President Vladimir Putin that prohibits “gatherings, rallies, demonstrations, marches and pickets” that are not part of the Sochi Olympics and Paralympics, from Jan 7 to March 21.
A number of media reports say that such a ban is unusual and that it has been put in place to deter anticipated rallies and demonstrations against Russia’s widely condemned anti-gay legislation signed into law by Putin in June. The announcement of the decree comes in the wake of indications that athletes are willing to use the forum of athletic competitions to take a stand against the laws. Both American middle distance runner Nick Symmonds and Swedish high jumper Emma Green Tregaro leveraged the spotlight on the recently concluded World Athletics Championships in Russia to do just that.
The International Olympic Commission (IOC) has said it will penalize athletes who make political statements at the Sochi Games, citing Rule 50 of its charter that says such demonstrations are not permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas. Violations of the rule could lead to “disqualification or withdrawal of the accreditation of the person concerned.”
Meanwhile, gay activist Nikolai Alexeyev’s Twitter feed indicates that he intends to “appeal the executive order of Russian President on limitation of freedom of assembly during Sochi Olympics in Russian Supreme Court.”
News of the decree follows the sending of a letter from Russia’s deputy prime minister to the IOC assuring that his country will comply with Olympic charter provisions against discrimination, even as it stands by its recently passed anti-gay legislation that has provoked international outcry.
Dmitry Kozak’s letter also stated that the "requirements" of Russia’s anti-gay laws "do not attract any limitations for participants and spectators of the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi on their legal right of residence in the territory of the Russian Federation or participation in any events stipulated in the Games program that are contradictory to the Olympic Charter or universally recognized standards of international law on human rights."