Putin Eases Protest Ban Ahead of Sochi Olympics

The Kremlin will allow approved demonstrations in a designated zone

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Correction appended: Jan. 5, 2014, 10:45 p.m. E.T.

President Vladimir Putin lifted a ban on protests in Sochi just five weeks before the city hosts the 2014 Winter Olympic Games next month.

Beginning Tuesday, the Kremlin will allow demonstrations approved by the mayor’s office and the Federal Security Service in a designated zone about 9 miles from the nearest Olympics site.

Putin issued the ban in August, drawing criticism from the International Olympic Committee and humanitarian organizations about the strict security tactics ahead of the Olympics, which begin Feb. 7. The designated zone, similar to one the Chinese government created during the Beijing Olympics in 2008, may be a part of a greater strategy to improve Russia’s reputation before the games.

The announcement comes after the release of dozens of high-profile prisoners, including former oligarch Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky, 30 Greenpeace activists and two members of the female punk band Pussy Riot.

However, two suicide bombings last week that left at least 34 dead stoked fears of terrorism at the Olympic Games.

[The New York Times]

An earlier version of this article misstated the year of the Sochi Olympics. It is 2014, not 2914.