Sochi: Putin Tells Gay People Visiting Olympics, 'Leave Children in Peace'

6:56 AM PST 01/17/2014 by Nick Holdsworth
Russian President Vladimir Putin

The Russian president added that such visitors should feel welcome, despite Russia's controversial law banning homosexual "propaganda."

MOSCOW – Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that gay people visiting the Sochi Winter Olympics should feel welcome, but they must "leave children in peace."

During a meeting with a group of young volunteers at the mountain village of Krasnaya Polyana, where skiing and outdoor snow events are due to take place, Putin said that gay people coming to Sochi "can feel calm and at ease, but leave children in peace, please," state-owned news agency RIA Novosti reported.

Putin also claimed that lawmakers in some countries have discussed legalizing pedophilia.

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"There's nothing secret in this, look on the Internet and you will find it straight away. Parties have presented the question in several parliaments," he said, without substantiating the claims.

There would be no discrimination at the games, he said, but reiterated that laws introduced last year banning homosexual "propaganda" among minors meant that gay people were forbidden from expressing their views on gay rights to youngsters.

His comments are likely to stir renewed controversy over measures that have attracted widespread international condemnation, although on Thursday the president had sought to assuage fears by repeating assertions that there would be "no discrimination" at the Games, adding that Russia will "do everything" to ensure a warm welcome for Sochi guests, "regardless … of sexual orientation."

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Russia's interior ministry, which is responsible for policing, has said that the anti-gay laws will be enforced in Sochi during the games, which run February 7-23.

Protests will be tightly controlled and confined to a park in a small town more than eight miles from any Olympic venues, similar to the practice adopted by the Chinese during the Beijing Olympics of 2008.

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