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Putin's Message to Gays in Sochi: ‘Leave Children in Peace’

16:37 17.01.2014 (Last updated 12:34 19.01.2014)

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Vladimir Putin | Olympic Games 2014
 
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  © RIA Novosti. Alexei Nikolsky
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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.

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