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Russian Olympic champion challenges US senator who calls to boycott Sochi Olympics

July 17, 2013, 14:29 UTC+3

"Sport has always been beyond politics" Alexander Popov recalled

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MOSCOW, July 17 (Itar-Tass) - Russian four-time Olympic champion in swimming  Alexander Popov, who is a member of the International Olympic Committee, has challenged U.S. Senator from the Republican party Lindsey Graham who called to boycott the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi because of a conflict around Edward Snowden.

"Sport has always been beyond politics,"Alexander Popov told Itar-Tass, commenting on the initiative suggested by the Republican senator.

"I think we should wait until the IOC president declares his official position on the problem," Popov said. ''The United States is a democratic country where anyone can say whatever one likes. But obviously, politics and sport are two different things. Sport has always been beyond politics; this is what common sense, which always guides athletes, prompts us to think," Popov said.

Honorary President of the Russian Olympic Committee Vitaly Smirnov called Graham's statement absurd. He recalled that such boycotts on political grounds are prohibited.

U.S. Congress urges to boycott Sochi Olympics due to Snowden issue

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham has launched the initiative to boycott the Olympics in Sochi, due to take place in February next year. In Graham’s point of view, President Barack Obama should consider the possibility for the United States not to participate in the Winter Olympics in Sochi in case Russia provides asylum to Snowden. "I would just send the Russians the most unequivocal signal I could send them" Graham said on Tuesday in an interview with The Hill newspaper.

What other senators think of the boycott initiative

The initiative, as it appears, has no other backers among the U.S. senators.

Republican Senator John McCain, whom the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia has recently described as "rabid Russophobe", doesn’t support the idea of his colleague Graham. "We can make a lot /if Russia accepts Snowden/, but I don’t think that the last experience of cancellation of the Olympics was good" said McCain.

Meanwhile, Senator Bob Corker, who is the senior Republican at the Foreign Relations Committee, abstained from further heating up the rhetoric regarding the situation around Snowden and increasing tension in Russian-American relations. "I don’t want to exacerbate hostility /in bilateral ties/" he noted.

How USA and USSR boycotted the Olympics

The United States boycotted the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow due to a political crisis connected with the introduction of Soviet troops in Afghanistan. Athletes from 65 countries including the U.S., China, West Germany and Canada didn’t take part in the 1980 Olympics. In the opening and closing ceremonies some athletes marched under the flag of the International Olympic Committee instead of their native flags.

The USSR, in its turn, refused to participate in the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, as did the major part of Socialistic camp states. The official reason of the boycott in response was the refusal of the Olympics organizers to provide security guarantees to Soviet athletes.

What else lawmaker Lindsey Graham is famous for

Influential member of the Republican faction in the Senate, Lindsey Graham is preparing a set of measures aimed at forcing Russia to turn over Edward Snowden.

Along with Republican Senator John McCain Graham has proposed to Barack Obama to approve weapon supplies to Syrian opposition and rocket attacks on that country.

Lindsey Graham and Senator Robert Menendez triggered the resolution upon which the U.S. should assist Israel in case of military conflict with Iran. The document has been backed by the Congress.

Graham and some of his party colleagues aim to announce the surviving organizer of the terrorist attack on the Boston Marathon Johar Tsarnaev a combatant on the side of the enemy. This would significantly restrict his rights and increase the time for questioning the criminal.

Interstate relations between Russia and the U.S. more important than security services’ squabbles

Russian President Vladimir Putin believes that the situation around Edward Snowden and similar cases should not complicate the inter-state relations. “We have our tasks, including concerning the development of relations with the United States,” the Russian head of state told reporters. “We have an independent foreign policy,” he said.

“I hope our partners will take this calmly and with understanding,” stated the President. “The interstate relations are more important than squabbling between security services,” he is certain.

On Tuesday Russian federal migration service chief Konstantin Romodanovsky confirmed that the FMS received Snowden’s political asylum bid.

“These documents will be considered within the period set by the law, i.e. within three months,” he said.

The head of the Public Chamber’s commission, Anatoly Kucherena, said Snowden applied for a temporary asylum. However, the lawyer noted that Snowden’s application did not give him the right to cross the border.

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