On July 21 Russian police officers detained and interrogated four Dutch filmmakers for several hours. Arrested outside the Russian city of Murmansk, the filmmakers were shooting coverage at an LGBT camp and planned to make a documentary that tracked the gay rights movements throughout Russia. Aside from detention, each filmmaker faces a charge of 3,000 roubles and deportation.

After reading through an admittedly laconic depiction, it must appear as though steps were skipped in either the decision to arrest or the judgment to detain these four foreign citizens. Recent developments in Russia, however, provided Russian law enforcement with more than enough probable cause to take the Dutch citizens into custody. On June 30 Vladimir Putin signed into law an extraordinary piece of legislation that bans the spreading of “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” among minors. This effectively outlaws any comparison between heterosexual and homosexual couples, and includes fines for individuals and media outlets that break the law. The law’s supporters are quick to say, in defense of free speech, that this does not preclude individuals from saying all things ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian,’ provided they do so in the correct derogatory context. In other words, one must become a homophobe or a bigot before he or she can exercise basic human rights.

Unfortunately the sad narrative goes on. Included in what is known as the ‘gay propaganda law’ is a section dedicated to foreign citizens. In addition to fines, foreigners can expect to be detained for up to 14 days and will be deported for breaking the law. The Dutch filmmakers are the first foreign citizens to be arrested for violating the new law, and various support groups have already raised awareness on their behalf. The Russian police can arrest you for the crime of propagandizing gay rights in any way whatever. Such vague legislation, by the way, did not pass the Russian parliament through slim margins and stringent debate. The gay propaganda ban passed with a unanimous vote of 436-0.

The parliament and Putin, however, are not alone in their efforts. A vital partner in the Russian government’s campaign against LGBT rights is the Russian Orthodox Church. Minutes after the law’s passage, the Russian parliament passed legislation calling for jail sentences of up to three years for “offending religious feelings.” The Church in Russia has experienced a growing influence in public policy, and this law should be evidence enough of that reality. Between these pieces of legislation and the ever-growing collusion of church and state, free speech has taken a backseat at the expense of everyone involved. Meanwhile, Russia continues to double down on its trail of exclusion in the 21st Century.

On July 3, shortly after Putin signed the gay propaganda bill into law, he put another hallmark piece of legislation into practice. Although homosexual couples in Russia are already unable to adopt children, President Putin and the Russian parliament decided to go a couple steps further. This new law disallows gay and lesbian couples in foreign countries from adopting Russian children. Moreover, unmarried individuals living in countries with laws allowing same-sex marriage are banned from adopting Russian children. Not only does this toss out every argument dealing with a concern about ‘properly raising children in a heterosexual home,’ but it also allows the world to see that Russia is content with exporting its human rights abuses to other countries. Considering countries like England and Wales have recently legalized marriage equality, with more countries to come, the list of individuals on Russia’s adoption-acceptable list will become narrower as time goes on.

With this adoption ban in mind, the Russian government’s valuable partner in the Church has had much to contribute to the discussion. Kirill, the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, said on July 21, “In recent times, in a number of countries the choice of sin has been approved and justified by the law, and those who in good conscience, fight these laws imposed by a minority, are repressed.” Kirill goes on to say that same-sex marriage is “a dangerous sign of the apocalypse and we must do everything to ensure that in the area of Holy Rus this sin is never justified by the law, because that would mean that the nation has embarked on the path of self-destruction.” This illustrates the Church’s position on the matter, but also demonstrates the fear mongering that Russia has stirred over the past few months concerning LGBT rights.

Astonishingly, homosexuality in Russia was a crime in itself until 1993, and was still considered a mental illness until 1999. The LGBT community in Russia is thus up against a maelstrom of hate, bullying, and misinformation on unprecedented levels.

Sometimes when human rights abuses are mentioned in conversation, the topic is immediately switched. After all, what can be done? It may indeed be a shame, but the situation is as hopeless at it is helpless. We have heard it all before. This case in Russia, however, may in fact be an exception. The Winter Olympics will be held in Russia next year, and this can be a momentous opportunity to hold Russia accountable for its human rights abuses. Of course, the first and foremost criticism comes with a staunch separation of politics and athletics. We should never involve ourselves in the business of punishing athletes who have spent years training for this spectacular event for a cheap political reward. Jimmy Carter attempted this shady maneuver in 1980 to protest an ironically shady war, for example. In this case, to the contrary, the athletes themselves could very well be punished if action is not taken.

Under the current legislation foreign citizens can be arrested and detained for so much as holding hands with the opposite sex in public. Any gay rights activism whatever is considered absolutely intolerable in Russia, and athletes may suffer as a result. If enough countries stand up for human rights before the Winter Olympics come around, much hardship and agony could be forestalled.

After all, Putin is unlikely to risk forsaking the economic benefits of hosting the Olympics to continue his domestic war of oppression. Again, this would not amount to a mere political stunt. The effort would not punish hardworking athletes, but prevent the punishment of hardworking athletes, thus serving as a distinction from Carter’s 1980 boycott. If one cannot see that difference, then one cannot see that difference.

Russia’s track record on human rights has been egregious toward the LGBT population, and it is long past time they gain media awareness for their repression.