Russia defends anti-gay law in letter to IOC
LONDON (AP) — The Russian government
assured the IOC on Thursday that it will
not discriminate against homosexuals
during the Sochi Olympics, while defending
the law against gay "propaganda" that
has provoked an international backlash.
The IOC received a letter from Russian
Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak giving
reassurances the host country will comply
fully with the Olympic Charter's provision
against discrimination of any kind.
"The Russian Federation guarantees the
fulfillment of its obligations before the
International Olympic Committee in its
entirety," Kozak said.
However, Kozak did not back down on the
issue of the new law, which penalizes
anyone who distributes information aimed
at persuading minors that "nontraditional"
relationships are normal or attractive.
The law applies equally to everyone and
"cannot be regarded as discrimination
based on sexual orientation," Kozak said.
The letter still leaves open the question of
what would happen to Olympic athletes or
fans if they made statements or gestures
that could be considered propaganda.
The law has provoked harsh international
criticism ahead of the Feb. 7-23 Winter
Olympics in the Russian resort of Sochi.
Some activists have called for a boycott of
the games, though President Barack
Obama and British Prime Minister David
Cameron have ruled that out.
Kozak's letter came after IOC President
Jacques Rogge asked the Russians for
further clarifications on the law and how it
could impact the Sochi Games.
"We have today received strong written
reassurances from the Russian government
that everyone will be welcome at the
games in Sochi regardless of their sexual
orientation," Rogge said in a statement.
The letter was addressed to Jean Claude-
Killy, the French IOC member who heads
the coordination commission for the Sochi
It's still not clear if an athlete or
spectator could be prosecuted for wearing
a badge or rainbow pin or waving a small
flag in solidarity with gay rights. Political
gestures of any kind are also prohibited by
The issue attracted attention at the world
athletics championships in Moscow last
week when Swedish high jumper Emma
Green Tregaro painted her fingernails in
the colors of the rainbow to support gay
The gesture prompted Russian pole vault
star Yelena Isinbayeva to complain that
Green Tregaro was disrespecting Russia.
In his letter, Kozak said the legislation
does not impose any restrictions on sexual
orientation, and stressed the Russian
constitution prohibits discrimination
against anyone based on sex, race or
The law on gay propaganda, he said,
centers on the "restriction of information
that promotes non-traditional sexual
relationships among children."
"These legislations apply equally to all
persons, irrespective of their race,
religion, gender, or sexual orientation, and
cannot be regarded as discrimination
based on sexual orientation," he said.
The letter added: "These requirements 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."
Homosexuality was decriminalized in
Russia in 1993 and Russian officials have
been at pains to emphasize that the law
does not penalize gay orientation or
However, the law reflects widespread
animosity toward homosexuals in Russian
society and its vagueness troubles many.
It appears possible that anyone wearing a
rainbow flag on the street or writing about
gay relationships on Facebook, for
instance, could be accused of
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