President Vladimir Putin has defended Russia’s anti-gay laws by saying they protect against the “destruction of traditional values”.

In his annual address to both chambers of the Russian Parliament, President Putin said Russia sees itself as a defender of conservative values against what it is considers to be an assault of “genderless and fruitless so-called tolerance” which he said “equals good and evil”.

“This destruction of traditional values from above not only entails negative consequences for society, but is also inherently anti-democratic because it is based on an abstract notion and runs counter to the will of the majority of people,” President Putin said.

Quoting early 20th century Russian philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev, the president said conservatism does not stop society from progressing but “prevents it from falling backward into chaotic darkness and the state of primitive man.”

The statement was met with enthusiastic applause from the audience, which was comprised of politicians, judges, religious leaders and federal and regional officials.

Attempting to dismiss concerns about LGBT athletes attending February’s Winter Olympics in the Russian city of Sochi, President Putin last month declared he was against “hatred” towards people of a “non-traditional sexual orientation” – whilst continuing to support the country’s homophobic legislation.

A federal bill banning gay “propaganda” was signed into law by President Putin in June.

It prescribes fines for providing information about homosexuality to people under the age of 18 – ranging from 4,000 roubles (£78) for an individual to 1m roubles (£19,620) for organisations.

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach has warned athletes against making political gestures at the Winter Olympics, but plans to set up protest zones for them to “express their views”.

Tennis legend Martina Navratilova slammed the IOC for “putting their head in the sand” over LGBT rights earlier this week.