Presidential sochi welcomeSaturday, January 18, 2014
Putin: gay visitors must ‘leave kids alone’
SOCHI — President Vladimir Putin sought yesterday to reassure gay visitors to the Sochi Games that they are welcome in Russia despite a much-criticized law banning gay “propaganda” to minors.
Responding to a question from an Olympics volunteer during a visit in the Black Sea resort city, Putin vowed that gays face no discrimination in Russia and could feel “at ease.” But he emphasized that because of the new law, they can’t express their views on gay rights issues to anyone under age.
Putin appeared to lump homosexuality and pedophilia together.
“We have no ban on nontraditional sexual relations. We have a ban on propaganda of homosexuality and pedophilia. I want to underline that, on propaganda among minors,” he said.
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.
The law specifically refers only to “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations.” The Kremlin hopes the games, starting on February 7 in the city of Sochi on the Black Sea, will showcase Russia’s modern face more than two decades after the Soviet Union collapsed.
Putin has identified himself closely with the US$50-billion event and has pledged Russia will do everything to ensure the Games are a success.
But Russia last year upset the West and human rights activists by banning what it called the promotion of homosexuality among minors.
Calls for a mass boycott of the games have failed, but the row has clouded the build-up to the event.
“We aren’t banning anything, we aren’t rounding up anyone, we have no criminal punishment for such relations unlike many other countries,” he said. “One can feel relaxed and at ease, but please leave the children in peace.”
Putin vowed to annihilate “terrorists” after bombings in Volgograd added to security fears ahead of the games in Sochi.
But visibly relaxed and making jokes throughout the meeting with Sochi volunteers, Putin appeared confident and said he would like to go to some ice hockey matches during the Games if time allows.
Herald with AP, Reuters