UK Prime Minister will not attend Sochi Winter Olympics

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Prime Minister David Cameron will not attend February’s Winter Olympics in the Russian city of Sochi, Downing Street has said whilst insisting the move is not a boycott over Russia’s stance on LGBT rights.

Former Labour MP and Europe minister Denis MacShane had called on Mr Cameron to personally boycott the 2014 Winter Olympics in protest at President Vladimir Putin’s “rank homophobia”.

“The PM believes in engagement. He doesn’t think that boycotts and grand gestures achieve much,” a government source told The Independent. 

Downing Street pointed to Mr Cameron’s decision to attend the Commonwealth summit in Sri Lanka in November, even though the Canadian and Indian prime ministers stayed away, and stated that Mr Cameron raised the issue of LGBT rights with President Putin when he attended the G20 summit in St Petersburg in September.

However, Downing Street confirmed Mr Cameron was not planning to attend the Sochi Games.

Although President Putin attended the London 2012 Olympics Games, previous UK prime ministers have not often attended the Winter Olympics – in part because Britain tends not to perform particularly well at winter sports.

In contrast, at the London 2012 Games, Britain finished third in the Olympic medal table, ahead of Russia.

PinkNews revealed last week that Sports Minister Helen Grant is highly likely to attend the Winter Olympics, along with her boss, Culture Secretary Maria Miller. Mrs Grant  is also a junior Equalities minister at the Government Equalities Office (GEO). Mrs Miller is also Minister for Women and Equalities, the most senior member of the GEO.

Last Tuesday, US President Barack Obama named several gay sports stars as part of America’s delegation to the Winter Olympics in Russia – but in a significant move confirmed that he will not be attending the event himself.

For the first time since 2000, the US will also not send a president, former president, first lady or vice president to the Winter Olympics.

Several days before, French President Francois Hollande announced he would not be attending the Games.

German President Joachim Gauck also said he was not going to Sochi.

However, both President Hollande and President Gauck failed to state their official reasons for not attending.

Someone who did state her reasons for not attending was EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding. She announced on her official Twitter account that she would “certainly not go to Sochi as long as minorities are treated the way they are under the current Russian legislation.”

Earlier this month, President Vladimir Putin defended Russia’s anti-gay laws by saying they protect against the “destruction of traditional values”.

A federal bill banning gay “propaganda” was signed into law by President Putin in June.

It prescribes fines for providing information about homosexuality to people under the age of 18 – ranging from 4,000 roubles (£78) for an individual to 1m roubles (£19,620) for organisations.

On Monday, Mr MacShane was jailed for six months for expenses fraud after admitting submitting 19 fake receipts amounting to £12,900.