MOSCOW — In the run-up to the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, President Vladimir Putin on Friday again insisted that there is no discrimination against gays in Russia — but then urged gays to “please leave children in peace.”
Putin defended Russia’s record on the issue, despite new laws in Russia that in part criminalize public displays of support for gays and that have drawn international condemnation ahead of next month’s games.
“Firstly we have no ban on nontraditional forms of sexual interaction between people,” Putin said in televised remarks during his meeting with the games volunteers in Krasnaya Polyana, the alpine skiing site near Sochi. “We have a ban on propaganda of homosexuality and pedophilia among the underaged, which I’d like to stress. These are absolutely different things: a ban on certain relations and on propaganda of these relations.”
“We don’t prohibit anything, there is no (criminal) liability for such relationship here in contrast to, I’d like to stress, many other world countries, including the United States, some states of which provide for criminal responsibility for nontraditional sexual orientation,” Putin said. “We have nothing like this here, this is why you can feel free, unrestrained, but please leave children in peace.”
About two dozen volunteers who met with Putin were dressed in Russian Olympic blue and white with rainbow ornaments on their suits, and one of the volunteers asked Putin why their uniforms are adorned with the symbol adopted by many gay rights activists.
“If you think I designed this uniform you are greatly mistaken,” Putin said.
He added that foreign visitors should respect Russian traditions and culture.
“We have our traditions and our culture,” he said. “We treat any of our partners with respect, but we request that our traditions and our culture be treated also with respect.”