• Winter Olympics

Putin in U-turn on Sochi demonstrations ban

ESPN staff
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Russian President Vladimir Putin tried his hand at ice hockey as he inspected preparations for the Sochi Winter Olympics © Getty Images
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Russian President Vladimir Putin has performed a U-turn over a ban on demonstrations at the Sochi Winter Olympics and Paralympics.

The Kremlin's website published an order on Saturday stating that demonstrations, marches, picketing, meetings and gatherings not connected with the Games can be held at locations approved by the Interior Ministry, who handle Russia's police force.

Putin had last year ordered a ban on all demonstrations not connected to the Games from January 7 through to March 21, with the move criticised by human rights organisations.

According to International Olympic Committee boss Thomas Bach last month, Russia had promised to set up public protest zones for the Games, which start on February 7. A spokesman for Putin hinted that protests would only be sanctioned in one location.

"The organisers of the Olympic Games together with the leaders of the Krasnodar Region and Sochi City Hall have been ordered by the president to choose a square in the city where rallies, demonstrations and other events - including of a protest character where necessary - could be held freely," the spokesman was quoted as saying by the R-Sport news agency.

A Russian law passed last year bans promotion of "non-traditional sexual relations" to minors, which has led to gay activists and others calling for a boycott of the Games.

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