Putin Bans All Protests, Rallies, Meetings, and Demonstrations Before And During Sochi Olympics
In the months approaching 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, the governing bodies of the games and its soon-to-be host nation have been at odds with LGBT rights advocates over the country's newly-adopted anti-gay "propaganda" law. Russian officials have already promised that the law will be enforced during the Games, and the International Olympic Committee has already threatened penalties against anyone displaying "demonstration of political, religious or racial propaganda". Now, a new decree by Russian president Vladimir Putin, banning all "meetings, rallies, demonstrations, marches and pickets" starting one month prior to the games and ending in March, seems to be shortening the leash for LGBT Olympians even more.
"This fits a larger pattern of Russian threats against Olympics in the past few weeks, when both the Russian Sports Minister, Vitaly Mutko, and the Russian Interior Ministry, responsible for overseeing domestic order (i.e., clamping down on dissidents and any public criticism of the Kremlin), threatened to jail gay and gay-friendly Olympians, guests and media during the Sochi games."
Thus far, it is not known if Russian officials had been planning this crackdown as part of the Olympic Games, or if it is a response to any of the number of small displays of LGBT rights advocacy tht have been taking place on Russian soil recently. None of the governing bodies of the Sochi Games have issued a comment on those specific events. Nevertheless, experts are speculating that this upcoming Olympics could prove to be the most unsafe in history. Not because of the so-called "terrorists" named in Putin's decree, mind you. This could be the first time that a host nation of the Olympics has threatened to throw its athletes in jail.
Again, while the IOC has already issued its decision regarding Russia's anti-gay propaganda law, it has yet to explain how this new degree plays into the equation. Say Olympians such as Johnny Weir and Blake Skjellerup decide to make good on their promises? Would it be the IOC that steps in to enforce the law or the Russian government? Even if the decree only really applies to Russian citizens and not Olympic athletes, police in Sochi have already been committing human rights atrocities against citizens and foreign nationals for months.
Perhaps what's even most troubling about this new decree is how vaguely it's worded. There's no specific definition as to what "terrorism" constitutes, and precisely how it differentiates from exercises in free speech. It also doesn't specify what sort of penalites the decree carries.