Sochi Olympics help Russian human rights, French minister
French President François Hollande was among the many heads of state who refused to attend Friday's opening ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics due to what they view as Russia's dubious human rights record under President Vladimir Putin. But France's sports minister has said that the situation is improving.
Hollande, US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron stayed away from the ceremony in protest against rights violations such as last year's law against "gay propaganda".
But French Minister of Sports Valérie Fourneyron on Friday claimed that the spotlight that the games shine on Russia mean they could be a good thing for human rights in the country.
"We can clearly see that when cameras from around the world are turned on a country, things change," she said. "I have no doubt that the recent release of Pussy Riot members, politicians like Mikhail Khodorkovsky or Greenpeace activists thanks to the December 2013 amnesty are just a beginning. On this occasion, as [UN Secretary General] Ban Ki-moon has pointed out, it is imperative that we keep in mind the importance of respect for all human rights and the rules of the European Court of Human Rights."
China's President Xi Jinping, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and embattled Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych were among some 40 heads of states who attended the opening, as did Ban Ki-moon.
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