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Putin Eases Olympic Protest Ban

Russian President Vladimir Putin, foreground left, and Railways Chief Vladimir Yakunin, second right, visit the Olympic Park railway station at the Black Sea resort of Sochi, southern Russia, Jan. 4, 2014.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has eased a ban on demonstrations in and around the upcoming Winter Olympics and Paralympics in Sochi.

A decree published by the Kremlin Saturday allows demonstrations and marches in areas along routes that still must be approved by various Russian officials. The demonstrations do not have to be connected to the games.

Putin last year ordered a ban from January 7 to March 21 on any demonstrations in the Black Sea resort city not connected with the Games. The ruling was widely criticized by human rights organizations.

Saturday's decree did not say how decisions will be made on which demonstrations will be allowed.

Some world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama have announced they will not attend the opening ceremony. The announcements came amid security concerns ahead of the Winter Games.

Russia has planned strict security measures during the event. Fears that Islamist militants could stage attacks during the Olympics were heightened by two recent suicide bombings in the southern city of Volgograd, nearly 700 kilometers from Sochi.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.