The US State Department has issued a travel warning for those travelling to Russia for the Sochi Winter Olympics, noting the country’s anti-gay law.
Specifically warning LGBT Americans about the country’s law banning the “promotion of non-traditional relationships” to minors, the warning from the State Department noted the “broad interpretation” of the terms of the law by Russian authorities.
The statement read: “Russian citizens found guilty of violating the law could face a fine of up to 100,000 rubles ($3,100). Foreign citizens face similar fines, up to 14 days in jail, and deportation,” the alert states.
“The law makes it a crime to promote LGBT equality in public, but lacks concrete legal definitions for key terms. Russian authorities have indicated a broad interpretation of what constitutes ‘LGBT propaganda,’ and provided vague guidance as to which actions will be interpreted by authorities as ‘LGBT propaganda.’”
The statement goes on to warn attendees of Sochi against attending demonstrations during their time there.
“U.S. citizens should avoid large crowds in areas that lack enhanced security measures… Use caution in any areas where protests, demonstrations, or other public disturbances are taking place. Demonstrations intended to be peaceful can develop quickly and unpredictably, sometimes turning violent.”
Attempting to dismiss concerns about LGBT athletes attending February’s Winter Olympics, President Putin in November declared he was against “hatred” towards people of a “non-traditional sexual orientation” – whilst continuing to support the country’s homophobic legislation.
A federal bill banning gay “propaganda” was signed into law by President Putin in June.
It prescribes fines for providing information about homosexuality to people under the age of 18 – ranging from 4,000 roubles (£78) for an individual to 1m roubles (£19,620) for organisations.
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 that special protest zones would be set up.
The authorities and organisers of Sochi have since confirmed that a special security zone would 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.