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Russia says anti-gay law will not affect Games

An interior view shows the Iceberg Skating Palace for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, August 20, 2013. REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski
An interior view shows the Iceberg Skating Palace for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, August 20, 2013. REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski

By Karolos Grohmann

BERLIN (Reuters) - Russia has assured the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that a controversial anti-gay law which has triggered protests in many countries will not affect athletes or spectators attending next year's Sochi Winter Olympics.

The IOC, who had asked for clarifications regarding the law this month, said Russia had committed to comply with the Olympic Charter.

"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," IOC President Jacques Rogge said in a statement.

"In his letter Deputy Prime Minister (Dmitry) Kozak underlines that ‘Russia has committed itself to comply strictly with the provisions of the Olympic Charter and its fundamental principles, according to item 6 of which "any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement," said Rogge.

Russia's law caused international outrage and there have also been calls to boycott the Games next year. Several athletes at the world athletics championships in Moscow this month voiced their opposition to the law.

Critics say the new law effectively bans all gay rights rallies and could be used to prosecute anyone voicing support for homosexuals.

OBLIGATIONS FULFILLED

"The Russian Federation guarantees the fulfillment of its obligations before the International Olympic Committee in its entirety," Kozak wrote in his letter to the IOC.

"In particular, legislation of the Russian Federation does not stipulate any restrictions or differentiation of the rights and responsibilities of citizens on the basis of sexual orientation.

"Discrimination against sexual minorities, just as any other discrimination, is expressly forbidden by the Constitution of the Russian Federation."

Kozak said the legislation was not targeting homosexuals but rather those who disseminated information promoting "non-traditional sexual relationships".

It was not clear, however, what that meant for any foreigners deciding to show their opposition to the law in some shape or form during the Olympics next year or voicing their support for gay rights in the country.

"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," Kozak said, defending the law.

"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."

Kozak's letter was addressed to French IOC member Jean-Claude Killy, who heads the IOC's coordination commission for the Sochi Olympics.

(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann, Editing by John Mehaffey)

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