Since the start of the Sochi Olympic Games on Friday, some 61 activists – 24 of them for staging pro-gay demonstrations – have been arrested across Russia. Some of those held in Moscow have reported being beaten while in police custody.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has however defended the arrests. In a response to Buzz Feed, the IOC said that Russia was acting in accordance with its laws when police detained 14 protesters in Moscow and St Petersburg on the day of the Olympic opening ceremonies.
Buzz Feed quoted Emmanuelle Moreau, the IOC’s head of media relations, as saying: ‘We understand that the protesters were quickly released. As in many countries in the world, in Russia, you need permission before staging a protest. We understand this was the reason that they were temporarily detained.’
According to the New York Times, four LGBT activists – one of whom is a pregnant woman – were arrested Friday afternoon in St. Petersburg while taking a picture holding a banner quoting Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter that read, “Discrimination is incompatible with the Olympic Movement.”
Another group of 19 Russian and international LGBT activists were arrested in Moscow, near the Red Square. They sang the national anthem and unfurled a rainbow flag when the police arrived and put an immediate stop to their protest. Two Swedish nationals in the group were quickly released, but the rest were reportedly held for several hours during which some were allegedly kicked, choked, and threatened with sexual violence.
A further 37 people were arrested in Nalchik for protesting the plight of the Circassians’ whose homeland surrounds Sochi and was occupied by Russian forces 150 years ago.