HRC Blog

Russian President Issues More “Verbal Assurances” for Olympic Athletes, Still No Concrete Action

russian flagPost submitted by Jane WothayaThirikwa, HRC Global Engagement Fellow

Growing international pressure against Russia’s draconian law that outlaws "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations among minors”, has forced President Vladimir Putin to address growing international criticism of the Russian government’s crackdown on its LGBT community.

Earlier this week, President Vladimir Putin met with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach in Sochi. During Bach’s visit, Putin promised that gay athletes and guests at the Winter Games will ‘comfortable’ at the Olympics. The IOC said it received assurances from the Russian government that it will respect the Olympic Charter, which prohibits discrimination of any kind at the games.

The IOC has been criticized for failing to pressure the host country to repeal the law, in order to guarantee the safety of Olympic athletes and visitors. HRC President Chad Griffin has stated that verbal assurances from the Russian government that foreigners will be exempt from their repressive laws are not enough and has called on the IOC not to accept these promises.

Putin claims that Russia will be safe for LGBT athletes and allies during February's games adds to the conflicting statements from his government officials. In August, the Russian Minister of Sports Vitaly Mutko said that foreign athletes at next year's Sochi Winter Olympics will have to abide by a new law despite earlier assurances from the Russian government that foreigners would be exempt from the new law. 

In the three months since this law passed, the Russian government has not demonstrated a unified position about the law, and how, if at all, it will be in effect during the Olympics, thereby putting the Russian president in a position to keep addressing the growing uproar from fair-minded advocates from across the globe.

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