French President François Hollande on Sunday became the latest leader to snub the opening ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia. The move comes amid a growing row over Russia’s rights record and recent legislation banning “gay propaganda”.
"I wish these games a lot of success, but there are no plans for top French officials to go," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told Europe 1 radio, although he refused to give a concrete reason for not attending.
The French decision not to attend was criticised Monday by former French interior minister Brice Hortefeux.
“This is a bad decision,” he told Europe 1. “When French athletes compete, national honour demands that they be accompanied and supported.”
“Doing so does not mean that we can’t defend our values,” he added. “I also believe that it is absolutely in France’s interests to renew our dialogue with Russia.”
Hollande's announcement follows German President Joachim Gauck’s decision not to attend the February event, although Gauck has publicly rejected media reports he is boycotting Russia over its rights record.
Blow to Putin
Last week, EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding 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."
Fabius's announcement will be a blow to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is hoping to make the event a showcase for the country’s status as world power.
The law, passed in July, forbids providing information on “non-traditional sexual relations” to minors and establishes steep fines for violations.
Date created : 2013-12-16