- © RIA Novosti. Mikhail Klimentiev
© RIA Novosti. Mikhail Klimentiev
MOSCOW, September 4 (R-Sport) - Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed Wednesday that there will be no discrimination of any kind at next year’s Winter Olympics, as controversy rages over a Russian law banning many public expressions of gay identity.
In June, Putin signed into law a bill forbidding the promotion of homosexuality to minors, which has given rise to calls from some activists to boycott the Olympics in Sochi.
While the law’s proponents argue it is aimed at protecting children from harmful influences, critics allege the move restricts freedom of speech and is part of a broader crackdown on Russia’s gay community.
“During the hosting of the Olympic Games and other major sports events, especially the Olympic Games, it is possible to be absolutely confident that Russia will strictly keep to the principles of Olympism, which do not allow discrimination against people on any basis whatsoever,” Putin told Russian Channel One TV.
Criticism of Russia’s record on gay rights often comes from U.S. commenters who should focus on their own country’s problems, he added.
“Among those who are trying to teach us, in part, there are some of our colleagues and friends from the United States. They should know that in the United States themselves there are more than a few problems for people of non-traditional sexual orientation,” Putin said.
“You know, for example that in some states … even now non-traditional sexual orientation is considered a criminal offense?” He also remarked that in Russia, gay people are “absolutely of full value and equal in civil rights.”
All remaining anti-sodomy laws in the U.S. were struck down by a Supreme Court decision in 2003, but some states retain the legislation on the statute books even though it can no longer be enforced. Russia scrapped a similar Soviet-era law in 1993.
Russia has previously come under international criticism, including from the European Court of Human Rights, for its treatment of gay people.
Putin also said that the Sochi Olympics would be safe from terrorist attacks despite ongoing insurgencies in Russia’s mostly Muslim North Caucasus, including some regions close to Sochi.
“I assume that our special services and law enforcement agencies of course will be able to do that,” he said.
The Winter Olympics will be held from February 7 to 23 next year.