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UK equalities minister to attend Russian Winter Olympics

UK equalities minister to attend Russian Winter Olympics

Conservative MP Helen Grant, Minister for Sport, Tourism & Equalities, will visit Russia during the Winter Olympic Games in February 2014.

The news comes after UK Prime Minister David Cameron announced last week he has no plans to travel to host city Sochi during the event.

Downing Street officials said Cameron’s absence should not be interpreted as a statement about Russia’s recent anti-gay laws.

Gay rights charity Stonewall said they do not support people boycotting the event, and countries can make a point by sending less important politicians.

Deputy chief executive of Stonewall, Ruth Hunt, said: ‘We have worked closely with Russian lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists who have been clear they don’t support a boycott of the Winter Olympic Games.

‘Instead, we need to make sure that the British Government and campaigners continue to raise awareness of the situation in Russia and stand with activists for the long haul.’

World leaders from Germany, France, Canada and the USA have also announced they will not be attending the Winter Olympics, with Germany citing Russia’s poor human rights record as reason for its absence.

Barack Obama is sending openly lesbian athletes Billie Jean King and Caitlin Cahow to Sochi to represent the US in his place.

There have been persistent calls for a boycott of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games since Russian president Vladimir Putin introduced a law in June which bans propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations.

The International Olympic Committee has clarified there will be designated zones in Sochi where competing athletes will be able to protest the anti-gay law.