Russian President Vladimir Putin lifted a ban on public protests for the Sochi Winter Olympic Games next month.
Putin’s order, which was posted on the Kremlin’s website Saturday, states that meetings, gatherings, demonstrations, marches and picketing that are not connected with the Olympics may be held in places or along routes approved by the Interior Ministry. The Interior Ministry, which manages Russian’s police, would need to grant official approval in advance for planned demonstrations.
Putin first instituted the ban in August, ordering that no protests in connection with the games could be held from Jan. 7 to March 21, after the Paralympic Games’ end date. The move drew criticism from human rights organizations and concern from the International Olympic Committee.
Saturday’s order follows the recent release of two members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot who were freed from prison for a performance critical of Vladimir Putin. Thirty detained Greenpeace activists were also released.
The International Olympic Committee praised Putin for allowing protests during the 2014 Winter Games and expressed their confidence in the process.
“We welcome this announcement,” IOC President Thomas Bach said in a statement. “It is in line with the assurances that President Putin gave us last year and part of the Russian authority’s plans to ensure free expression during the Games.”
Last year, Russia passed a law that banned the promotion of homosexual “propaganda” to minors. The legislation, which will impose hefty fines for providing information about the LGBT community to minors or holding gay pride rallies, prompted many to boycott the Winter Olympics.
The Olympic Games are scheduled for Feb. 7-23, and the Paralympic Games will be held March 7-16.