UK

David Cameron Won't Go To Sochi, But Denies Gay Rights Abuses Are The Reason

29/01/2014 17:16 GMT | Updated 29/01/2014 18:59 GMT
Ben Stanstall/PA Archive
British Prime Minister, David Cameron is joined by Russian President Vladimir Putin, along with other G8 leaders for the second Plenary Session of the G8 summit in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland.

David Cameron is snubbing Vladimir Putin and not attending the Winter Olympics.

In a move that will be welcomed by critics of the president's gay rights crackdown, the PM's spokesman confirmed he would not attend the showpiece event in Sochi, which starts next week.

But Downing Street insisted the decision not to go to Russia was because of Cameron's schedule, and played down any connection to the controversial 'gay propaganda' law.

Instead of Cameron, the government will be represented by Culture Secretary Maria Miller, the minister who oversaw the introduction of gay marriage in the UK.

Gay rights campaigners have urged the PM to boycott the Sochi games in protest at Putin's introduction of laws banning homosexual "propaganda".

But asked whether the PM's absence was linked to the gay rights issue, Mr Cameron's spokesman replied: "The Prime Minister's schedule means that he won't be attending the Sochi games."

Putin travelled to London to watch the Olympic judo with the Prime Minister in 2012.

But Cameron's spokesman pointed out that it was not a regular practice for the British prime minister to attend Winter Olympics.

"I am not familiar with the last time a prime minister attended a winter games," he said.

Britain will be represented at Sochi by Miller, sports minister Helen Grant and the Princess Royal, said the spokesman.

Asked whether Mrs Miller would take the opportunity to raise the issue of homosexual equality, the PM's spokesman said: "In terms of the way the British Government, including the Prime Minister, raises a full range of issues including issues around human rights and individual rights, we have and will continue to raise these with the Russian government."

It is understood that British officials formally informed Russian diplomats yesterday that Mr Cameron would not be attending the Sochi games, which open on February 7 and last until February 23.