UK to fund Sochi gay rights campaign

UK culture secretary Maria Miller says that Britain will fund gay right campaigns in Sochi ahead of next month's Winter Olympics in the city.

The UK government has agreed to fund a gay rights campaign in Sochi ahead of the start of the Winter Olympics.

The build-up to the Games has been marred by concerns over a lack of freedom of speech and homophobic attitudes in the host country.

Britain's culture secretary Maria Miller told BBC News: "It's very important indeed we use the opportunity of the Winter Games to underline the importance of treating people fairly, which is at the heart of the Olympic charter and important to the Olympic movement.

"As a result of the changes in the laws in Russia, there are considerable strains on gay rights. We are already putting in place additional support to make sure that gay rights organisations have got the sort of support and expertise that I think can make a real difference with the work they are doing on the ground in Russia.

"I absolutely believe in freedom of speech and ability of anybody to campaign on the issues which are important to them. What I would want to make sure, in the context of the Winter Games, is that they don't overshadow the event. But these are things for the athletes themselves and the British Olympic Association. I'm sure they will look at the best way they can handle this."

Sochi's mayor, Anatoly Pakhomov, recently claimed that the city has no gay residents.

Russian President Vladimir Putin at a meeting with upcoming Olympic games' volunteers in Sochi on January 17, 2014
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