Britain's Cameron won't attend Russia's Sochi Winter Olympics

Wed Jan 29, 2014 1:21pm EST
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LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister David Cameron will not attend next month's Winter Olympics in Russia, his spokesman said on Wednesday, adding his schedule meant it was not possible and that British leaders did not usually go to the event.

Cameron had been under pressure to boycott the Sochi games from some gay and human rights activists who thought his staying away would boost their campaign against what they call Russia's draconian legislation on homosexuality.

But Cameron's spokesman declined to comment when asked whether the decision to stay away was a snub directed at President Vladimir Putin, saying he was unsure whether Russia had even formally invited the British leader.

"The prime minister's schedule means that he won't be attending the Sochi games," the spokesman told reporters, saying a delegation including Britain's culture and sports ministers and Princess Anne, Queen Elizabeth's daughter, would be going.

"I'm not familiar with the last time a UK prime minister attended a winter games," the spokesman added.

Sources close to Cameron had previously told Reuters that a decision not to attend would not be politically motivated, although relations remain strained by issues including the 2006 London poisoning of former Russian intelligence operative Alexander Litvinenko.

Russia passed a law last year banning what it called the spread of homosexual propaganda among minors, angering rights activists around the world.

Senior government figures from Germany, France and the United States have already said they will not go to Sochi, without linking the decision to the issue of gay rights.

When asked whether the British delegation would raise concerns about the contested Russian law, Cameron's spokesman said Britain discussed a "full range" of issues around human rights with countries like Russia and would continue to do so.   Continued...

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron pays a visit to small businesses at Lots Ait Boatyard in Brentford, west London January 27, 2014. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor