Vladimir Putin, who in June signed a law banning ‘gay propaganda’ in Russia, has sought to reassure concerns about athletes who display rainbow flags during the 2014 Winter Olympics, urging that there is no discrimination against gay people in his country.
In an interview with Associated Press, Putin said: “I assure you that I work with these people, I sometimes award them with state prizes or decorations for their achievements in various fields.
“We have absolutely normal relations and I don’t see anything out of the ordinary here.”
He also added Russians loved composer Tchaikovsky even though the composer was said to have been gay.
He said: “Truth be told, we don’t love him because of that, but he was a great musician and we all love his music.”
Putin also offered to meet members of the LGBT community if they asked to see him.
He signed the controversial law in June banning the promotion of “non-traditional relationships” toward minors, a move that has been criticised as part of a broader crackdown on Russia’s gay community.
While Russian officials previously reassured the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that Russia will not discriminate against gay people during the Games in Sochi, they have also said the law would be enforced.
Fears have been raised the new legislation will be used to punish athletes who display rainbow flags during the Olympics.
Last month, Putin also signed a decree banning all demonstrations and rallies in Sochi throughout the Winter Games.
In an interview at his country residence outside Moscow, however, he urged that foreigners would not be punished.
He added he had full confidence in Russia’s special services and law enforcement agencies to provide security during the Games.
On Tuesday, the UK Foreign Office confirmed that Prime Minister David Cameron is to raise concerns over Russia’s anti-gay laws when he meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin at this week’s G20 meeting in St Petersburg.
The statement came in a response to an open letter from Russian Deputy Prime MInister Dmitry Kozak, who promised that gay people would not be discriminated against but then went onto defend the gay “propaganda” law by stating that it applied to all persons so therefore could not be considered “discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.”
The IOC guaranteed that no one shall face discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation, but in the wake of Sweden’s Emma Green Tregaro’s protest against the anti-gay laws at the World Athletics Championships last month the IOC reiterated that political protests are not permitted in sports venues.