The 2014 Winter Olympic Games will kick off Feb. 7, and Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to make it clear that gay people should feel welcome despite Russia's controversial anti-gay-propaganda law. He hosted a meeting with volunteers Friday.
Putin was asked about his attitude toward gay people at the games, which some have speculated could be inhospitable. He replied: "One can feel calm and at ease. Just leave kids alone, please." His comment, of course, references new Russian policy. (Via Al Jazeera)
"According to a Russian law that bans homosexual propaganda among minors, gays cannot express their views on gay rights issues to anyone who's underage." (Via KTVU)
That law has prompted international criticism, including boycotts of the games by officials such as French President Francois Hollande, even though Putin stated before gay athletes won't be discriminated against. (Via The Telegraph, Olympics)
Still, his latest remarks at the meeting didn't exactly ease many minds.
A writer for the The Washington Post says, "That phrasing — with its intimation that gays might prey on children — hardly seems the kind of guarantee sought by the United States and other Western governments and human rights activists."
At the meeting, Putin claimed Russia has more liberal homosexual laws than other countries that flat-out ban homosexual behavior. He referenced the United States; however, laws against gay sex in the U.S. are considered unconstitutional. (Via The Guardian)
He said: "We have a ban on the propaganda of homosexuality and pedophilia. I want to underline this. Propaganda among children. These are absolutely different things — a ban on something or a ban on the propaganda of that thing." (Via The Wire)
Putin's first interview with an American journalist will air Sunday, when ABC shows Putin's sit-down with George Stephanopoulos. Putin will discuss the controversy surrounding the propaganda law and security concerns for the games.