The Russian Interior Ministry, which is responsible for the police, has confirmed that those who break Russia’s ban on the promotion of gay lifestyles to minors will face arrest at the Sochi Winter Olympics Games next year.
There have been conflicting messages coming out of the IOC (International Olympics Committee) and the Russian authorities over recent weeks.
In a statement today, the Interior Ministry said: “The law enforcement agencies can have no qualms with people who harbour a nontraditional sexual orientation and do not commit such acts [to promote homosexuality to minors], do not conduct any kind of provocation and take part in the Olympics peacefully.”
“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,” the statement added.
Promoting homosexuality to minors in the context of the Russia law can mean holding a rainbow flag, kissing a same-sex partner or participating in a gay rights march.
The head of Russia’s National Olympic Committee, Alexander Zhukov said: “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.”
During an interview with a senior member of the International Olympics Committee (IOC) from last week, the question of whether to relocate the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics because of recently introduced anti-gay laws, was raised for the first time.
President Vladimir Putin signed the law in June banning the promotion of “non-traditional relationships” toward minors, a move that has been criticised as part of a broader crackdown on Russia’s gay community. Other laws banning the adoption of Russian children by foreign same-sex couples, and one which enables organisations receiving funding from abroad to be fined as “foreign agents”, were also passed.
On Wednesday, author and television presenter Stephen Fry wrote an open letter to David Cameron, International Olympics Committee President Jacques Rogge and Lord Coe, urging for the 2014 Winter Olympics to not take place in Sochi.
In a statement, the IOC said it “respected Mr Fry’s opinion” and the committee was clear that “sport is a human right and should be available to all regardless of race, sex or sexual orientation”.
On Friday, IOC president Jacques Rogge reaffirmed his organisation’s commitment to a Winter Olympics free of all discrimination following calls from such names as Stephen Fry and Tory MP Mike Freer to either relocate or outright boycott the games altogether.
The law has so far sparked controversy among LGBT activists, with some calling for a boycott of the 2014 Games. Others have also called to boycott Russian vodka as a form of protest.