The 2014 Winter Olympics are scheduled to take place in Sochi, Russia early next year. Amidst the country's preparation for the international event, Russian president Vladimir Putin has signed an executive order forbidding protests during the Games.
Paul Sonne of the Wall Street Journal reports the move is a preemptive measure to avoid any high-profile demonstrations during the Olympics.
The order, which was signed Aug. 19 and printed in Russia's official government newspaper on Friday, says "meetings, rallies, demonstrations, parades and pickets that aren't tied to the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, and that are planned from Jan. 7 to March 21, 2014, should take place at another time."
The regulation covers a 10-week period that includes the Olympics, and includes both Sochi and its surrounding areas. The report states this is Russia's second crackdown to limit public demonstrations in as many years.
As noted by Max Seddon of BuzzFeed, the executive order stands in direct opposition to the country's own constitution:
The decree essentially suspends Article 31 of Russia’s constitution, which guarantees the right to “gather peacefully without weapons, hold rallies and demonstrations, marches, and pickets.”
The order also comes less than two months after Putin enacted an anti-gay rights law that sparked outrage around the globe. Per Sonne:
The order comes amid a Western outcry over a new Russian regulation—known colloquially as the "gay propaganda" law—that prohibits people in Russia from publicly condoning "nontraditional relationships" in front of minors. The law, which levies fines for actions that promote "the social equivalence of traditional and nontraditional sexual relations," has led some in the U.S. to call for a boycott of the 2014 Games.
Even though the polarizing situation has led to talk about a boycott of the Games by the United States and other global powers, there's been no indication one has been seriously considered. According to Kelly Whiteside of USA Today, U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out that option.
The Russian government is also dealing with threats of Islamic terrorism ahead of the Games. Chechen rebels have promised to use "maximum force" to prevent the Olympics because they will take place on the "bones of many, many dead Muslims." The terrorist threat could very well be another impetus to the protest ban.
More than five months before the competition is set to begin in Russia, stories concerning the country's new legal measures have already drawn national interest. Putin is clearly trying to do everything within his power to ensure social controversy doesn't overshadow the Olympics—a time when the host country typically basks in the international spotlight.
Whether or not he is successful remains to be seen.