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The Week In Review: Putin's PR Problem

01/12/2014 08:40 EST | Updated 03/13/2014 05:59 EDT

Vladimir Putin has been taking great pains lately to make Russia look as stable, reasonable and welcoming as possible in anticipation of the Sochi Olympics next month. But the Russian Orthodox Church isn't exactly helping the cause. While Mr. Putin has offered assurances that gay athletes and spectators will be perfectly comfortable at the games despite the country's law against "homosexual propaganda" aimed at young people, the Church is now suggesting the country hold a national referendum on criminalizing gay relationships. (Needless to say, the Church is hoping for a "yea" vote.)

Maybe 25 days before Russia takes the world spotlight wasn't the best time for the Church to promote the idea of returning to a Stalin-era law prohibiting consenting adults from choosing their own partners. It's generally considered unseemly to initiate a human-rights disaster so close to hosting the games. However at least the Church has done the world a favour; it has reminded us that the reality of present-day Russia is a lot less like the palatable version Mr. Putin is trying to sell us and a lot more like the repressive and abusive version we suspect.

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