UK & World News

  • 5 January 2014, 2:01

Putin Wins Ice Hockey Game At Olympic Venue

Russia's president Vladimir Putin has reinforced his "tough guy" image by taking part in an "all-star" ice hockey game.

The 61-year-old even got his Belarussian counterpart, Alexander Lukashenko, involved in the match at Sochi, which will host the Winter Olympics next month.

It came as Mr Putin eased restrictions on demonstrations at the resort in a gesture that appeared to be an attempt to allay human rights concerns.

He amended a decree to allow groups to hold some marches and gatherings at sites approved by the security services, the Kremlin said in a statement.

"Gatherings, rallies, demonstrations, marches and pickets, which are not directly connected to the Olympic and Paralympic Games, could be staged on Jan 7-March 21 2014... only after agreeing with... a local security body," it said.

The president's team, which included retired professional Pavel Bure - known as the "Russian Rocket" - as well as defence minister Sergei Shoigu, defeated a side that included former champion Alexander Yakushev.

The leaders wore red, with Mr Putin in a number 11 jersey and Mr Lukashenko number 1.

Mr Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: "Knowing that a match with hockey stars was planned at Sochi and knowing of the passion of Alexander Lukashenko for the sport, Putin invited him to Sochi."

The Russian leader is on a visit lasting several days to Sochi, which will host the Winter Olympics between February 7-23.

His trip came after Russia suffered two of its deadliest attacks with suicide bombings in late December in the southern city of Volgograd, about 400 miles from Sochi.

Mr Putin, who also attended a rehearsal of the Games' opening ceremony on Saturday, has staked his reputation on a successful and safe Olympics.

Moscow has spent more than 30bn on the event and has imposed tight security in and around Sochi and nearby cities.

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