EU Commissioner joins Sochi Olympics snub

Tue Dec 10, 2013 2:16pm EST
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By Karolos Grohmann

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (Reuters) - European Union commissioner Viviane Reding will not go to the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics in February over what she said was Russia's treatment of minorities, joining German President Joachim Gauck in a snub to the host nation.

"I will certainly not go to Sochi as long as minorities are treated the way they are under the current Russian legislation," Reding, EU Commissioner for Justice, Citizenship and Fundamental Rights, said in a tweet on Tuesday.

While it was unclear whether Reding had been invited or would have gone as an EU representative or a private citizen, her decision openly to oppose Russia's recent legislation was the most vocal statement by a politician to date.

Russia has been under mounting criticism over its human rights record especially after passing an anti-gay propaganda law earlier this year that critics say curtails the rights of homosexuals.

On Sunday German president Gauck became the first European head of state to announce he would not be attending the Games at the Russian Black Sea resort.

He did not, however, say why he would not be attending but his decision was instantly welcomed as a "wonderful gesture" by several human rights groups as well as the German government's human rights commissioner, Markus Loening.

But IOC President Thomas Bach said: "These kind of invitations are invitations from governments to governments and it is not up to the IOC to intefere with government relations."

Asked by Reuters whether he was disappointed by Gauck's decision, Bach, also a German, played down his decision not to attend.   Continued...

European Union Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding arrives to address the European Parliament's Committee on civil liberties, justice and home affairs in Brussels June 19, 2013. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir