Russian authorities have confirmed that special protest zones will be set up at the Sochi Winter Olympics.

In the face of heavy criticism of Russia’s anti-gay law, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach sought to diffuse the situation with an announcement in December.

This followed a decree, signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in August, which banned all demonstrations and protests for the duration of the Winter Games.

The authorities and organisers of Sochi have now confirmed that a special security zone will be set up in Sochi between 7 January and 31 March.

Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for President Putin’s office said protests would bey allowed but that they must be organised in advance with the federal security service, the FSB.

“The president has issued an instruction to the organisers of the Olympic Games, together with the leadership of Krasnodar Territory and the Sochi mayor’s office, to select a venue in the city where rallies, demonstrations and other events, including, if necessary, protests, could be freely held,” Mr Peskov said.

The presidential decree, however, notes that limits may be put on the number of people at each demonstration.

This announcement follows in the steps of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where China set up sanctioned protest zones, which protesters had to apply to use.

The special security arrangement is said to have been prompted following two suicide bomb attacks in the country.

Putin has personally inspected Olympic sites, and security measures is understood to include drones over the city.