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MOSCOW, January 4 (R-Sport) - International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach on Saturday welcomed steps taken by Russian President Vladimir Putin to lift a ban on protests during the Sochi Winter Games next month.
The February 7-23 Games are the first under Bach's watch and the German praised Putin for following up on promises made last year to adhere to so-called Olympic values during the event.
"We welcome this announcement," Bach was quoted as saying in an IOC statement sent to R-Sport. "It is in line with the assurances that President Putin gave us last year and part of the Russians authority's plans to ensure free expression during the Games while delivering a safe and secure Games."
Putin had put a blanket ban on any rallies or demonstrations in a presidential decree last August, but reversed it in a surprise announcement on Saturday that nevertheless noted protests will still require official permission during the broader Olympic period of January 7 through March 21.
Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told RIA Novosti that in practice, local authorities and Games organizers would jointly nominate a suitable public area for protests, suggesting they would be restricted to that area alone.
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- bielecIs IOC politically involved in spreading unrest?08:18, 05/01/2014Aren't Olympic Games supposed to be apolitical? A symbol of peace? Not a platform for protests and demonstrations? Bach and others like him are stepping outside of their role and the mission of their organization. Their expectations regarding so called "freedom of expression" are strictly political. They endanger the security and traditional peaceful symbolism of the games.
Earlier this month, Russia hosted the Fourth International Meeting of the Arctic Council at Naryan-Mar, a seaport in the Barents Sea, to discuss issues relating to the infrastructure and safety of ships passing through the Northern Sea Route (NSR).