Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko warned athletes and visitors today that they will not be given any special exemptions from the nation’s recently passed anti-gay laws that make it a crime to spread “homosexual propaganda” to minors.
Earlier this week, Russian lawmaker Vitaly Milonov, also stated that the ‘gay propaganda’ law will remain in effect and be enforced during the Sochi Winter Olympic Games in 2014 despite assurances to the contrary by the International Olympic Committee.
“The IOC has received assurances from the highest level of government in Russia that the legislation will not affect those attending or taking part in the Games,” according to the statement emailed to USA TODAY Sports last week.
According to the AFP:
“No one is banning a sportsman with a non-traditional sexual orientation from going to Sochi. But if he goes out onto the street and starts to make propaganda, then of course he will be brought to responsibility.
“As a sportsman, he should respect the law of a country,” Mutko added. “Come (to Sochi), but don’t get young people involved, don’t make propaganda. This is what we are talking about.”
Foreigners found guilty of violating the law can not only be fined up to 5,000 rubles ($156, 114 euros) but face administrative arrest of up to 15 days and eventual deportation.
Russian officials rarely use words like “gay” and “homosexual” and prefer to use the phrase “non-traditional sexuality” to describe same-sex love.
The law has aroused concerns among activists about whether Russia is fit to host the Games, the biggest sporting event it has held in its post-Soviet history, and even calls for a Cold War-style boycott.
Mutko’s comments infuriated activists, coming after the IOC said last week it had received assurances at the “highest level” within the Russian government that the legislation would not affect those attending the games.
“Russian sports minister confirmed gay propaganda law WILL be applied at Olympics in Sochi! As I said Russian guarantees to IOC are b(expletive)!” leading Russian gay rights activist Nikolai Alexeyev fumed on Twitter.