The Rossiyskaya Gazeta, the official government newspaper, published the presidential decree Friday, listing an array of measures tightening security in the Olympic host city, including the ban on public assemblies. All "gatherings, rallies, demonstrations, marches and pickets" that are not part of the Olympics or the Paralympics will be prohibited in Sochi from Jan. 7 to March 21, the decree said.
First, there was Martin Goldfarb. Then came Stephen Harper. I have a sneaking suspicion Bob Rae might have paid me a visit. But this trumps 'em all.
The day after I post on the inevitability of LGBTQ protests in Sochi and how bad it'll be for Putin, he puts out a notice that protests are banned. Yay for me, I've influenced Russian policy! (It's at least a possibility - I have had 206 hits from Russia so far this week. That's gotta count for something.)
Alas, even if I have inspired Putin to action, the poor fellow seems to have missed the meat of my advice - stifling dissent isn't going to work. Not in a forum like the Olympics. They'll never be able to screen out all protesters, nor scare everyone into submission. With celebrity interest in the event there will inevitably be people of global profile poking the bear over gay rights and doing so in a public way, making Putin look like the tyrannical stick-in-the-mud he is.
How he'll respond to that communications crisis will be interesting, but even more important will be the international community's response to him. We've had a lot of vague protests from Western governments against an increasing number of volatile, civilian-threatening situations in the world, but that's been about it. Should, say, American or Canadian citizens are mistreated while defending human rights in Russia, they (and the IOC) are going to have to show some sterner stuff. Their constituents will demand nothing less.
The simplest way for the West to head-off any difficult scenario around the Olympics would be to push for them to instead be held in Vancouver. Russia would definitely respond to such a slight, though - and it wouldn't do anything to address the root cause of the conflict.
The best long-term solution would be for Putin to have a Damascus moment, quit being a thug and start showing some true leadership by rescinding the law and promoting equality for all Russians.
If he keeps on reading WAKATA, I'm sure he'll find something to help him along his way.