Putin says gays should feel welcome at Sochi

Russian President says gays are welcome at the Winter Olympic Games, but must "leave the children in peace".

    Putin says gays should feel welcome at Sochi
    Putin and other politicians have defended the June propaganda law as a protection of child rights [Getty]

    Russian President Vladimir Putin has said gays should feel welcome at the upcoming Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, but they must "leave the children in peace".

    Putin told volunteers Friday that gays 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, gays cannot express their views on gay rights issues to anyone underage.

    "We have a ban on the propaganda of homosexuality and paedophilia," Putin said in televised comments from host city Sochi, with three weeks to go until the event. 

    Putin made the statement after volunteers at the games in Sochi asked him why their uniforms are rainbow coloured, when the Russian government bans gay propaganda.

    International outcry

    The president's comments were unlikely to appease critics of the ban. United States President Barack Obama has pointedly announced he was sending an Olympic delegation that includes several openly gay sports figures.

    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 Feb. 7-23.

    A senior cleric from the Russian Orthodox Church, which is closely allied to Putin, this month called for a national debate on returning a Soviet-era law repealed in 1993 that criminalised gay sex. 

    One of the volunteers, set to assist visitors at the Games, commented on their rainbow-coloured uniforms and asked if they could be breaching the ban on gay propaganda, the Interfax news agency reported.

    SOURCE: Agencies


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    Interactive: Coding like a girl

    Interactive: Coding like a girl

    What obstacles do young women in technology have to overcome to achieve their dreams? Play this retro game to find out.

    Heron Gate mass eviction: 'We never expected this in Canada'

    Hundreds face mass eviction in Canada's capital

    About 150 homes in one of Ottawa's most diverse and affordable communities are expected to be torn down in coming months

    I remember the day … I designed the Nigerian flag

    I remember the day … I designed the Nigerian flag

    In 1959, a year before Nigeria's independence, a 23-year-old student helped colour the country's identity.