UK & World News
Sochi: Protests Planned Over Anti-Gay Laws
Human rights groups are calling for a day of global action today in protest at Russia's "anti-gay" laws, as the country prepares to host the Winter Olympics.
Australian snowboarder Belle Brockhoff and her teammate Heath Spence are among 50 past and present Olympians to sign a petition calling on Russia to end its crackdown on gay rights ahead of the Sochi games.
More than 405,000 people have already signed the petition, which states: "We stand with citizens across Russia who are calling on their government to stop the crackdown against lesbian, gay, bi and trans people that is fuelling anti-gay violence."
Ms Brockhoff, 21, the only openly gay member of the Australian team, has said she won't take part in organised protests during the games, but is keen to use the event to raise awareness of discrimination.
She added, of President Vladimir Putin: "After I compete, I'm willing to rip on his ass.
"I'm not happy and there's a bunch of other Olympians who are not happy either."
She is supporting a campaign by groups Athlete Ally and All Out called "Principle Six" - named after the sixth Fundamental Principle of the Olympic Charter, which bans discrimination of any kind.
Athletes are encouraged to hold up six fingers during the games to show their support.
The groups plan to hold demonstrations in Moscow, London, Rio de Janeiro and Sochi, 48 hours before the opening ceremony.
Russia passed a new law last year banning what it termed "homosexual propaganda" targeting minors (Russian citizens under 18).
Mr Putin has insisted gay athletes and spectators should feel "relaxed" about coming to Sochi, but confusingly then commenting that they should "leave the children alone".
The mayor of Sochi has previously said there are no gay citizens in his town.
Sky News spoke to the founder of a website offering anonymous support to young gay people, who is now being prosecuted under the new law, accused of disseminating "homosexual propaganda".
According to the official summons, Lena Klimova "had registered web page propagandising non-traditional sexual relations among minors".
Ms Klimova told us her website had helped thousands of young people, giving them access to psychologists and advice to cope with bullying.
She said several of them have told her she saved their lives.
She told us: "The screws will be tightened and tightened even further. I am scared to even think of what this can lead to. I'm not waiting for anything good from our future.
"As to our project we will keep going and if they fine me I will try to pay it."
In Moscow we met a group of young people who have started self-defence classes to try to protect themselves after a surge in homophobic attacks, and reported indifference from the authorities.
Teacher Yulia Kozlova said the breaking point for her had been the murder of a young man in Volgograd, apparently killed by his friends after he told them he was gay.
She said: "He was killed because they thought he was gay and they thought it was bad.
"I see these murders and these consequences and I was telling people: 'Hey guys, we definitely should go to the classes because if we can't defend ourselves, nobody will help us.'"
She told us she had heard of the internet campaign "It Gets Better" - in Russia, she said, it's not getting better, it's going to get worse.
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