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Russia tells International Olympic Committee anti-gay law won't apply to athletes and spectators

High-level officials reported as saying the law will be suspended for Olympic athletes and guests, as unpunished violence continues against the Russian LGBT community.
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June 29, 2013- Anti-gay demonstrators gather on the sidelines of a gay pride event in Saint Petersburg. Russian police arrested dozens of people after clashes erupted in the city of Saint Petersburg between pro- and anti-gay demonstrators. (OLGA MALTSEVA/AFP/Getty Images)

Russian government officials “from the highest level” have assured the International Olympic Committee that all athletes and spectators at February’s Winter Olympics in Sochi will be exempt from the Federation’s new law against homosexual propaganda, Russian state-owned news agency RIA Novosti reported.

The Olympic Committee spoke about the recent development Friday morning, in response to growing international calls for a boycott of the country’s first Winter Olympic Games.

“As a sporting organization, what we can do is to continue to work to ensure that the Games can take place without discrimination against athletes, officials, spectators and the media,” the IOC told the publication. “To that end, 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.”

The legislation, which was just signed into law by President Vladimir Putin last month, targets the LGBT community and “so-called homosexual propaganda,” making it illegal to promote, acknowledge, or otherwise educate about homosexuality anywhere in the country.

The influence of the law was made explicitly clear at the beginning of RIA Novosti’s story on the government’s high-level comments, prefaced “This article contains information not suitable for readers younger than 18 years of age, according to Russian legislation.”

An initial statement made earlier this month by the IOC, in which the committee said that the “legislation has just been passed into law, and it remains to be seen whether and how it will be implemented,” was not enough to soothe the criticism expressed across the world by activists, LGBT community members and supporters alike.

Those championing the law argue that it is intended to “protect children from harmful influences,” while critics insist that the move is a fragment—albeit a significant one—of a broader crackdown on Russia’s gay community.

But as the battle between opponents and proponents of the law rages on, the first legal actions against homosexual propaganda have come into play.

Four Dutch filmmakers were freed to return to their countries this week after having been arrested and detained near the northwest Russian city of Murmansk over an alleged violation.

And snowballing episodic violence against homosexuals in Russia is still going unpunished.

Indeed, Russian LGBT rights groups warned of “impending tragedy” last week, and said that the legislation “would spur a growth in violence and incite action from neo-Nazi groups.” That warning is now manifest in events from this week.

Eastern European LGBT rights group Spectrum Human Rights Alliance published an article on Wednesday titled “Russian LGBT Teens Publically Bullied and Tortured by Neo Nazis on Video. Local Law Enforcement Condones Homophobia.”

The article said that an “infamous Russian ultranationalist and former skin head,” Maxim Martsinkevich (AKA “Cleaver”) “spearheaded a countrywide campaign against LGBT teens using a popular social network VK.com to lure unsuspected victims through personal ads.”

Spectrum said that over 500 groups have been formed within the networking site, in an effort to organize militias in every Russian city. The groups are doing so under the guise of two projects claiming to be identifying and reporting pedophiles.

Rather than identifying pedophiles, the militias set out same-sex personal ads that are largely being responded to by homosexual teenagers looking for a date. Once the teens show up for the match, they are bullied and tortured while being recorded on video.

A photograph posted alongside the story shows two men giving a thumbs up, while holding a young, apparently bloodied, boy by the hair. The boy is stripped down to his underwear and situated on his knees.

Below the article is a Russian-language video of a group of young people approaching and harassing a teen boy on the street. In videos such as this one, Spectrum notes, the goal is to “out” homosexuals to their parents, schools and friends. In this particular video, the boy is kept for 20 minutes before being drenched in what the article said is urine. The video ends abruptly at the beginning of a resulting altercation.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/rights/russia-ioc-anti-gay-law