Russia’s Sports Minister has urged LGBT acivists to “calm down” amid the furore over the Sochi Winter Olympics.
Vitaly Mutko said athletes and supporters would “have to respect the laws of the country”, but impressed that Russia “has a constitution that guarantees to all citizens rights for the private life and privacy.”
Speaking at a news conference on Thursday, Mutko said: “Rest assured that all the athletes and all sports organisations should be relaxed. I want to ask you to calm down.”
Stating the pursuit of medals should be the primary concern, he added: “This is a sports forum. This a sports festival and we have to talk only about it.”
LGBT activists have spearheaded a campaign urging a boycott of the 2014 Games amid the prospect of homosexual athletes and supporters facing arrest under the country’s newly approved anti-gay legislation.
Despite claims from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that the Russian government has given assurances as to the safety of athletes and supporters, regardless of their sexual orientation, Russian lawmaker Vitaly Milonov has stated the law cannot be selectively enforced nor suspended.
In an interview with Interfax news agency, Milonov said: “I haven’t heard any comments from the government of the Russian Federation, but I know that it is acting in accordance with Russian law.
“And if a law has been approved by the federal legislature and signed by the president, then the government has no right to suspend it. It doesn’t have the authority.”
Amongst a petition to move the Games to Vancouver and an appeal from British actor Stephen Fry for Russia to be stripped of the event, a human rights organisation has alleged local authorities in Russia have harassed activists and journalists critical of the Games.
Human Rights Watch also cites incidences where criminal charges have been brought against journalists, apparently in retaliation for their work.