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Published: Monday January 20, 2014 MYT 12:25:01 PM
Updated: Monday January 20, 2014 MYT 12:26:07 PM

Chinese president to attend opening ceremony in Sochi

China's President Xi Jinping stands next to a Chinese national flag during a welcoming ceremony at the Great Hall of the People, in Beijing, November 13, 2013. REUTERS/Jason Lee

China's President Xi Jinping stands next to a Chinese national flag during a welcoming ceremony at the Great Hall of the People, in Beijing, November 13, 2013. REUTERS/Jason Lee

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese President Xi Jinping will attend the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in the Russian city of Sochi, China's Foreign Ministry announced on Monday.

In a brief statement, the ministry said that Xi would be in Russia from February 6-8 for the opening ceremony. It provided no further details.

Xi's decision to attend is a positive development for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has staked his political prestige on the success of the Olympics, after U.S. President Barack Obama and his German counterpart Joachim Gauck both said they would not travel to Russia for the Games.

To ease fears over possible breaches of security, Putin has ordered safety measures beefed up nationwide after 34 people were killed last month in bombings in Volgograd, another city in southern Russia.

About 37,000 Russian personnel are providing security in the Sochi area.

Russia's human rights record has also come under close scrutiny with Finland's Sports Minister Paavo Arhinmaki boycotting the opening ceremony over the country's "limitations in the freedom of speech or repressing of sexual minorities".

The Sochi Games are the 22nd Winter Olympics and will run from February 7-23.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Hui Li; Editing by John O'Brien)

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