Report: German president boycotting Sochi Olympics

German President Joachim Gauck is boycotting the Winter Olympics

and will not travel to Sochi, Russia next year.

Gauck took the decision to protest human rights violations and

the harassment of Russian opposition political figures, Der Spiegel

reported Sunday. The magazine said the Russian government was

informed of his decision last week.

Presidential spokeswoman Ferdos Forudastan confirmed the move to

the dpa news agency on Sunday. Gauck’s office could not immediately

be reached for further confirmation.

Forudastan told dpa that there was no set rule saying German

presidents had to travel. Former president Horst Koehler did not

travel to Vancouver for the Winter Games in 2010.

The German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) said on its

website that Gauck had not been planning to visit to Sochi

”according to our knowledge.”

DOSB director general Michael Vesper told dpa that ”(someone)

who doesn’t travel doesn’t automatically boycott something. It’s

certainly not directed against the German team.”

Gauck, an outspoken critic of Russia’s human-rights record, is

yet to visit the country since taking office in March 2012. A

planned meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in June 2012

fell through, apparently for scheduling reasons.

Gauck travelled to the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games in

London last year.

Alexei Pushkov, the Kremlin-connected head of the Russian

parliament’s lower house, quickly responded to the perceived slight

on Twitter: ”Gauck never condemned the killing of children and

women in Pakistan and Afghanistan. But he denounces Russia (so

strongly) he would not go to Sochi.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke against boycotting the

games in Sochi last August, in response to Russia’s new law banning

alleged gay propaganda. The chancellery said the games in February

would focus attention on such issues, and that athletes would be

most affected by a boycott.

Arrangements for Merkel’s attendance at Sochi have not yet been

made.