Netanyahu Joins Western Leaders in Rejecting Sochi Invite

Visit to Russian Winter Olympics never considered, Prime Minister's office says.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has turned down a formal invitation to attend the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia in February, the Hebrew Ma’ariv daily reported Monday morning.

Sources in the Prime Minister's office, to which the invitation was sent, said a trip to the games was never considered, the report stated.

U.S. President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron and German President Joachim Gauck are among the Western leaders who have announced they will not be attending due to Russia's recent crackdown on gay rights.

The anti-gay legislation signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in June bans “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” and imposes fines on those holding gay pride rallies.

Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko has insisted athletes would “have to respect the laws of the country” during the games.

The International Association of Athletics Federations has urged Russia to reconsider its views on gay rights.

Putin and Netanyahu have a close working relationship and their last meeting was held only last month.

Amnestied Pussy Riot pair criticise Putin

Meanwhile, two members of Russian punk protest band Pussy Riot freed from prison on Monday derided Putin's amnesty that led to their early release as a propaganda stunt and promised to fight for human rights.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 24, shouted "Russia without Putin" following her release from a Siberian prison, hours after band mate Maria Alyokhina, 25, was freed from jail in the Volga River city of Nizhny Novgorod.

The women had two months left to serve but walked free days after a pardon from Putin freed former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky eight months before the end of his more than 10-year jail term, decisions widely seen as intended to improve Russia's image before it hosts the Winter Olympics in February.

netanyahu and putin