Russian president Vladimir Putin announced that the ban on public protests during the Sochi Olympic and Paralympic games this year would be eased.
Still, protests must be approved in advance by the government, and the protest zone is reportedly nine miles away from the closest Olympic site. Three similar protest zones were created for the Beijing games in 2008, but no protests were ever sanctioned, and those who did apply were harassed instead.
Tanya Lokshina of Human Rights Watch told the Times that Russia was simply making the effort "to convince critics that it's a democracy where freedom of expression is respected within reasonable limits... I suggest they shouldn't let themselves be convinced that easily."
Jane Buchanan, also from Human Rights Watch, says Sochi officials have still targeted "journalists, environmental activists, minority rights activists, and others."