By Nick Butler in Pushkin Hall at the Main Press Centre in Sochi

Evgeny Vitishko was handed a three year sentence in a penal colony earlier this week ©AFP/Getty ImagesFebruary 15 -  A three year sentence in a penal colony handed out this week to environmental protester Yevgeny Vitishko was unconnected to his criticism of Sochi 2014, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has been assured by Russian officials. 

On Thursday (February 15) the IOC revealed they had asked for "clarification" from Russian authorities after suggestions that VItishko, among the most vocal critics of environmental damage in the build up to the Games, was sentenced as retribution for his activism.

But, speaking this morning, IOC spokesman Mark Adams insisted they had been assured this was not the case.

"We have had confirmation from Sochi, who got the information for us from the relevant authorities, that this is not Games-related," he said. 

"We understand that Mr Vitishko was arrested after painting a house or vandalising a house about three years ago, he was given a suspended sentence at the time for that.

"Subsequently my understanding is he broke that suspended sentence and was subsequently jailed.

"So our understanding is that it is not Olympic-related."

Adams accepted that some may be sceptical of this assurance and he described the criticism by Human Rights Watch - who saw it as linked to Vitishko's protests - as "perfectly legitimate comments which they have every right to say."

But he insisted there is "a perfectly good process" by which political issues linked to the Games can be raised with the authorities before adding that when there have been links, such as over the non-payment of workers and over damage to the village of Akhshtyr close to Sochi, then action has been taken.  

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February 2014: IOC seeking "clarification" after Sochi 2014 environmental campaigner sent to penal colony