Dozens of protesters detained across Russia before Opening Ceremony

Sam Cooper
Fourth-Place Medal
Dozens of protesters detained across Russia before Opening Ceremony

While the Opening Ceremony nearly went off without a hitch, Russian authorities detained at least 61 people on Friday for holding unauthorized protests – many concerning gay rights -- across the country.

The Russian government has made it a point of emphasis to diffuse protests – even those that take place far away from Sochi.

According to the New York Times, four gay-rights activists were arrested in St. Petersburg as “they unfurled a banner quoting the Olympic Charter’s principle of nondiscrimination” which read “discrimination is incompatible with the Olympic Movement. Principle 6. Olympic Charter.”

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“Human rights are generally violated in Russia,” Polina Andrianova, a gay-rights activist in St. Petersburg, told the Times. “People should be able to protest anywhere, anytime. It’s a human right.”

One of the four arrested in St. Petersburg was Anastasia Smirnova, a spokeswoman for a gay-rights organization in St. Petersburg. Smirnova recently met with International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach to cast some light on Russia’s antigay policies.  

Additionally, at least 19 people – including foreign activists -- were arrested near Red Square in Moscow for further gay rights protests. Several of those detained gathered at a clock and counted down the last minutes until the official opening of the games.

Elsewhere, 37 people in Nalchik who aimed to draw attention to complaints of the Circassians were arrested. The Circassians’ homeland surrounding Sochi was occupied by Russian forces 150 years ago. The protest featured cars driving to the city’s main square waving flags and banners that read “Sochi is the Land of Genocide.”

Russian president Vladimir Putin has voiced frustration over the protests as they continue to cast a negative light on the country when the eyes of the world are squarely focused on the Games. 

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