Gays welcome at Olympics if they ‘leave children in peace’

Putin’s controversial remarks likely to reignite debate about homophobia in Russia

Russia’s president Vladimir Putin meets with volunteers who are taking part in the preparations for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games. Photograph: Alexei Nikolskyi/Reuters

Russia’s president Vladimir Putin meets with volunteers who are taking part in the preparations for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games. Photograph: Alexei Nikolskyi/Reuters

 

Russian president Vladimir Putin says gay people should feel welcome at the upcoming Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, but they must “leave the children in peace”.

Mr Putin told volunteers today that gay people visiting Sochi “can feel calm and at ease,” and vowed that there would be no discrimination at the games.

But he emphasised that, according to a law banning homosexual “propaganda” among minors, gay people cannot express their views on gay rights issues to anyone under age.

Mr Putin and other politicians have defended the June propaganda law as a protection of child rights, but critics believe that the law discriminates against sexual minorities.

In the wake of international outcry against the bill, Russian authorities have put limits on the right to protest during the Sochi games, which run from February 7th-23rd.

AP