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Finnish foreign minister opposes Olympic boycotts

Erkki Tuomioja spoke out a day after his cabinet colleague Paavo Arhinmäki said he would boycott at least the opening of the Sochi Games.

Ulkoministeri Erkki Tuomioja.
Veteran SDP politician Erkki Tuomioja Image: Yle

Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja does not support boycotts of the Sochi Winter Olympics. He said on Friday that the games should be kept apart from politics.

A day earlier, Finland’s Minister for Culture and Sport, Paavo Arhinmäki, said he would skip the opening ceremonies at least because of the human rights situation in Russia.

Several heads of state have said they will boycott the games, which start on February 7 in the Black Sea town of Sochi.

“I think the Olympics should be kept separate from politics,” Tuomioja told Yle. “Once it’s been decided to grant the games -- and hopefully the decision is always a sustainable one -- then they should go through with them. Then those who are particularly interested can attend. I don’t think that so far anything has come up in regard to the Sochi games that we should take a political stand on, at least at the national level.”

“No reason to take a stand”

Asked for his views on the political stances taken on it by many other countries, Tuomioja replied: “I think each [nation] makes its own decisions. We don’t have any reason to take a stand on this as a state.”

Russia last year upset the West and human rights activists by banning what it called the promotion of homosexuality among minors. Calls for a mass boycott of the games have failed, but the row has clouded the build-up to the event. There has also been international condemnation of Russia’s treatment of the Pussy Riot and Greenpeace Arctic protesters – who have since been freed of charges.

On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin insisted his country is not "going after" gays, said defending the controversial ban on "propaganda of homosexuality".

"There is no ban on non-traditional forms of sexual interaction between people,” said Putin, adding: “People can feel free and at ease, but please leave the children in peace."

Last summer Arhinmäki waved a rainbow flag while attending the World Athletics Championships in Moscow. 

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