With the Winter Olympics set to begin in less than two months, Russian President Vladimir Putin is positioning his country as a global leader of intolerance for homosexuality.

While Russia does not wish to be a superpower, he told parliament in a major speech Thursday, it will be a bulwark against “so-called tolerance – genderless and infertile” that equates “good and evil.” He went on to denounce the “destruction of traditional values from the top,” which he said is “inherently undemocratic because it is based on abstract ideas and runs counter to the will of the majority of the people.”

Putin’s actions place him blatantly at odds with Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter, which bans “any form of discrimination” by a host country. But the International Olympic Committee, which overlooked China’s crackdown on free expression and political dissent prior to the 2008 Summer Games, has declined to take notice – much less to put pressure on Moscow.

A group of those brave Russian LGBT activists visited Washington last week in the hope of calling attention to the growing pressure on them. To reject Putin’s campaign to dehumanize gay people is to uphold what the Olympics should be about.

As Anastasia Smirnova, coordinator of a coalition of Russian LGBT organizations, put it: “This is about identity, not politics. Stating your identity is not political.”

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