UK Equality ministers to boycott Sochi Paralympics over Ukraine crisis

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Maria Miller, the Culture Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities, will not attend the Sochi Winter Paralympics due to the crisis in Ukraine.

Prime Minister David Cameron announced yesterday that Sports and Equalities Minister Helen Grant will also not attend the Games “because of the serious situation in Ukraine”.

Writing on his official Downing Street Twitter account, Mr Cameron said: “Because of the serious situation in Ukraine, (Foreign Secretary) William Hague and I believe it would be wrong for UK Ministers to attend the Sochi Paralympics.”

Mrs Miller and Mrs Grant both recently flew out to Sochi as part of Britain’s delegation to the Sochi Winter Olympics, which concluded last week.

Their decision to attend the Olympics generated a mixed response due to Russia’s position on LGBT rights.

Some LGBT rights campaigners urged a boycott of Sochi in protest at Russian President Vladimir Putin’s introduction of laws banning “homosexual propaganda”.

But others feared it would only lead to greater marginalisation of Russia’s LGBT community and be of detriment to the athletes.

In February, before the crisis in Ukraine erupted, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced that Liberal Democrat ministers would shun the Winter Olympics in Sochi due to Russia’s anti-gay legislation.

Downing Street announced in December last year that Prime Minister David Cameron would not be attending the event – only because it was not a British convention to do so.

In an article published last Friday, International Development Minister Lynne Featherstone conceded that a “subtle approach” with Uganda over its anti-gay legislation “clearly didn’t work” as a sufficient deterrent.