On Friday 7 February, the Russian authorities arrested at least 61 people in the run-up to the Winter Olympics’ opening ceremony in Sochi.
The arrests spanned from the Caucuses to the capital St Petersburg. The government is seemingly tolerating no dissent, even far away from the location of the games in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.
According to the New York Times, 19 were arrested near Red Square in Moscow at gay rights protests, including several foreign activists (pictured above). At least two of the activists report having been beaten and threatened with sexual abuse.
In the capital, four activists were arrested for unfurling a banner near the State Hermitage Museum which read: “Discrimination is incompatible with the Olympic Movement. Principle 6. Olympic Charter.” These included Anastasia Smirnova, who recently met with the president of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, on the issue of Russia's restrictions on gay rights.
In a pathetic and supine public statement, the IOC's head of media relations Emmanuelle Moreau told the internet aggregate site Buzzfeed that: “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 they were temporarily detained.”