Russia lifts ban on protests during Sochi Olympics

Moscow, Jan 5: Russian President Vladimir Putin lifted a ban on demonstrations at the Sochi Olympics Games, allocating a special area for mass public events, the Kremlin said Saturday, Xinhua reported.

Earlier, a presidential decree ordered that any public events, including demonstrations and protests, should be cleared by city authorities, the interior ministry’s local branch and the Federal Security Service (FSB).

According to the latest decision by Putin, the authorities will allocate a special area in the Olympic host city of Sochi for mass events during the preparation period and at the Games, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov noted.

“The president instructed the Olympic Games organisers together with the Krasnodar territory administration and the Sochi city hall to find an area in the city where actions, demonstrations and other events, including, if need be, protest ones, could be held freely,” he said.

Still, from January 7 through March 21, rally organisers need to get police approval on the number of participants, location or marching route, and time interval before going ahead with their demonstrations, said a statement posted on the Kremlin website.

International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach welcomed Putin’s decision, saying “it is in line with the assurances that President Putin gave us last year and part of the Russians authority’s plans to ensure free expression during the Games while delivering a safe and secure Games,” R-Sport quoted him as saying.

IANS