German President Joachim Gauck flatly announced on Sunday he will not be attending the Sochi Winter Olympics scheduled on February 2014 in Russia. This makes the German leader the first ever major political figure to snub the event.
According to a report in the German news weekly Der Spiegel, Mr Gauck will snub the global event to protest Russia's human rights violations. The Russian government had been informed of Mr Gauck's decision, the magazine noted.
A torchbearer holds up the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games torch atop a boat during the torch relay in Lake Baikal in this handout from the Organizing Committee Sochi 2014 released on November 23, 2013. REUTERS/Organizing Committee Sochi 2014/Handout via Reuters
Mr Gauck was a Christian pastor and civil rights activist in the former communist East Germany before becoming president. Since taking office in March 2012, he has yet to make an official visit to Russia.
"It is important that the world watches and realises the things that are happening in Russi and what a great disappointment to democracy and human rights Russia is," Markus Loening, the German government's human rights commissioner, told Reuters, obviously pleased with their country's top leader's decision.
On its Web site, the German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) confirmed the report, saying the German leader is not planning to visit to Sochi "according to our knowledge."
Michael Vesper, DOSB director general, however, was quick to defend his president's actions as far as the country's athletic contingent was concerned.
"(Someone) who doesn't travel doesn't automatically boycott something. It's certainly not directed against the German team."
Alexei Pushkov, the Kremlin-connected head of the Russian parliament's lower house, immediately pounced on Mr Gauck's snobbish stance.
"Gauck never condemned the killing of children and women in Pakistan and Afghanistan. But he denounces Russia (so strongly) he would not go to Sochi," he said in Twitter.
The 2014 Winter Olympics games in Sochi has become highly controversial not on the merits of the athletes who will compete there, but on the recent anti-gay laws enacted by the Russian government, led by its leader Vladimir Putin.
But while Mr Putin said gay people would not be discriminated at the Sochi games, his government officials, however, have consistently said the country's anti-gay propaganda law would be enforced, thereby risking foreign athletes.
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