Sochi: UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Thursday called for an end to attacks and discrimination against gays on the eve of the official opening of the Sochi Olympics, as the United States warned of toothpaste bombs on flights to Russia.
The build-up to the 22nd Winter Games has been overshadowed by concerns over security and human rights -- with a law passed last year banning the dissemination of "gay propaganda" to minors criticised by activists as vehemently homophobic.
Speaking as sporting action got under way today, Ban told a session of the International Olympic Committee in Sochi that everyone should join together to fight discrimination.
"We must all raise our voices against attacks on lesbians, gays, bisexual, transgender or intersex people. We must oppose the arrest, imprisonment and discriminatory restrictions they face," he said.
"I know principle six of the Olympic Charter enshrines the IOC`s opposition to any form of discrimination."
"Hatred of any kind must have no place in the 21st century," said Ban, who did not specifically address the situation in Russia.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak later denied there was discrimination in Russia and said there should be no gay rights protests at the Olympics.
"Political propaganda during sporting events is forbidden by the Olympic charter and Russian law," he said.
More than 200 leading international authors including Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood and Jonathan Franzen criticised the anti-gay law as well as blasphemy legislation as a "chokehold" on creativity, in an open letter published in Britain`s Guardian newspaper.
And Russian punk protest group Pussy Riot defied President Vladimir Putin by calling for a "Russia that is free" at a star-studded New York concert where they were feted by Madonna and cheered by thousands.