vladimir putin

The Russian blockade began at midnight on Jan. 29. At factories and warehouses across neighboring Ukraine, truckers had picked up their regular haul of cargo that afternoon and made their way to the eastern border. If their radios were tuned to the news as they drove along the icy highways, they would have heard some alarming bulletins.

Outraged by a new Russian law that outlaws “homosexual propaganda” and by President Vladimir Putin’s recent remarks that gays who go to Sochi for the Olympic Winter Games should “stay away from children,” some gays and lesbians are planning to boycott watching the Olympics on TV.

As international attention focuses on the Sochi Winter Olympics, the big question is whether security will hold, even with Russia's draconian response, which has included bringing in more than 30,000 additional troops and police, sealing off the city and closing nearby international border crossings to try to counter Islamist insurgents’ threats to attack the games themselves. Yet whatever happens in February, Sochi will have longer term implications for Russian politics, society and its economic fortunes.

The world is just a few days away from witnessing the start of the 2014 Winter Olympics. This year, the games will be held in the Russian summer resort of Sochi. Sochi, known as a longtime retreat for the Communist elite, will be hosting history’s most expensive Olympics, with a bill of $51 billion.

There are at least a couple of documentary films on Pussy Riot, the art collective notorious for lip-synching a punk protest song in a Russian Orthodox cathedral. But Russian authorities had made it clear, as recently as a month ago, that they didn’t appreciate public attempts to screen such films.

President Vladimir Putin said Sunday that Russia does not discriminate against gays and that millions of Russians love pop icon Elton John "despite his orientation," as he sought to defuse calls from gay rights activists to boycott the Winter Olympics. In an interview with foreign journalists less than three weeks before the opening of the Olympics in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Putin reiterated that Russia would welcome all athletes and visitors, regardless of their sexuality.

Public diplomacy fans should read the list of the 10 biggest public diplomacy stories of last year. Thanks to the University of Southern California’s Center on Public Diplomacy, we can see the global trends and how public diplomats are responding to those trends.

CPD announces the 10 most significant public diplomacy stories of 2013 as part of its review of global trends that are shaping the field. To narrow our list of 1,500 stories to 50, we took into account the following factors: the frequency of the story being covered in various news sources, the implications of the public diplomacy event, the credibility of sources publishing the news about the PD moment, and the frequency of an actor’s participation in public diplomacy activities either as the initiator or receiver of public diplomacy.