Labour puts pressure on Government to be firmer about Russia's gay rights abuses

 

Political Editor

Labour is urging the Government to take a much tougher line against Russia’s stance on gay rights during the Winter Olympics in Sochi starting a week tomorrow.

The Opposition is worried that ministers attending the Games will adopt a “softly, softly” approach for fear of jeopardising David Cameron’s attempts to rebuild relations with President Vladimir Putin after a frosty period in recent years.

In a letter to Maria Miller, the Culture Secretary and Equalities Minister, Labour said: “The whole country will be behind our fantastic athletes as they prepare to compete for Britain at the Winter Olympics. However, while the Games will rightly be a time for celebration, they must also be a moment of awareness.”

Gloria De Piero, the shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, and Kerry McCarthy, a Labour foreign affairs spokeswoman, expressed concern about a law passed in Russia last year restricting the freedoms of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and reports of horrific violence and abuse against them.

The two Labour frontbenchers urged Mrs Miller to meet LGBT activists during her visit to Sochi; raise LGBT rights in her meetings with Russian officials and work with gay and human rights organisations to develop stronger links between UK and Russian campaigners.

Labour has also pressed for Britain to follow the lead of the United States by including gay sportsmen and women in its official delegation, but that is unlikely to happen.

Mrs Miller, who will be accompanied in Sochi by Helen Grant, the Sports Minister, insists that they are not playing down the gay rights issue. The Government has promised more money to the gay rights group Stonewall for its work in Russia, but the amount has not yet been decided.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Culture Media and Sport said: “There are some well-documented concerns about recent changes in Russian law which affect the LGBT community. The Government is absolutely clear that freedom of speech and human rights are universal and should apply equally to all people. That is why the Government is backing Stonewall’s work with Russian human rights agencies to support LGBT people in Russia. We believe that the best way to effect change is to engage in open dialogue.”

In a letter to gay rights organisations in the UK and Russia, Mrs Miller said: “We believe that keeping the channels of conversation open is the best way to affect change and that it is more fruitful to engage and challenge prejudices than stay away from the Games.

“Throughout last year, we engaged frequently with the Russian government. I visited Russia last December. During the trip I met with both Russian Government ministers and NGO groups ahead of Sochi where the promotion and protection of human rights was discussed.  We regularly make clear to Russia that human rights are universal and should apply equally to all people.” 

Mr Cameron will not attend the Winter Olympics but Downing Street sources say that should not be interpreted as a snub.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss