KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia, January 17 (R-Sport) - Gay people should feel comfortable at the Sochi Olympics but “leave children in peace,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday.
In June, Putin signed into law a bill forbidding the promotion of homosexuality to minors, sparking months of controversy ahead of the February 7-23 event 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.
Since gay sex is not a crime in Russia, gay people can “feel calm, at ease, but leave children in peace, please,” Putin said at a meeting with Olympic volunteers in the mountain village of Krasnaya Polyana, the base for snow sports at the Sochi Olympics.
The remarks come a day after Putin repeated his vow that there would be “no discrimination” at the Games, and he has previously said that Russia will “do everything” to ensure a warm welcome for Sochi guests “regardless … of sexual orientation.”
Russia's Interior Ministry, which controls the police, has vowed to enforce the controversial anti-gay law at the Olympics, and there will also be tight restrictions on protests, which are confined to a park in a small town that lies more than 12 kilometers from any Olympic venues.
U.S. President Barack Obama will not attend the Games, and his nomination of two openly gay ex-athletes to his country’s delegation has been widely interpreted as a comment on the Russian law.