President Vladimir Putin says gay people have nothing to fear in Russia as long as they leave children alone.
“One can feel calm and at ease,” he said on Friday as he spoke to Olympic volunteers in Sochi. “Just leave kids alone, please.”
The Russian leader emphasised that, according to a law banning gay “propaganda” among minors, gay people cannot express their views on LGBT rights to anyone under the age of 18.
President Putin made the remarks during a question-and-answer session, when one volunteer asked him about Russia’s attitudes towards gay people.
“We have no ban on the non-traditional forms of sexual intercourse among people,” President Putin said in remarks carried by the Interfax news service. “We have the ban on the propaganda of homosexuality and paedophilia. I want to stress this: propaganda among minors. These are two absolutely different things: a ban on certain relations or the propaganda of such relations.”
President Putin then claimed that legalising paedophilia had seriously been considered in several countries in relation to their acceptance of gay rights.
“There is nothing secret about it, look it up on the internet and you’ll find it straightaway,” he said. “Parties have raised the issue with certain parliaments. So what, are we supposed to shuffle behind them like obedient dogs toward unknown consequences? We have our own traditions, our own culture, we treat all our partners with respect and ask for our traditions and our culture to be treated with respect as well.”
Downing Street denied it was because of Russia’s decision to implement anti-gay laws. A source said: “The PM believes in engagement. He doesn’t think that boycotts and grand gestures achieve much.”
Last weekend Foreign Secretary William Hague said Britain will continue urging Russia to protect LGBT rights and suggested that openly gay sports stars could be included in the UK’s Olympic delegation.
However, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office later played down the remarks about the UK delegation.
She’ll be joined on the delegation by two openly gay former Olympic athletes — figure skater Brian Boitano and hockey player Caitlin Cahow.
For the first time since 2000, the US will also not send a president, former president, first lady or vice president to the Winter Olympics.