KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia, January 20, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that homosexual people are welcome to attend the Sochi Olympics and can “feel safe and free” in Russia during the winter games, but warned them to “leave children in peace.”
Homosexuality itself is not a crime in Russia, so 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 outside Sochi for Olympic snow sports, according to RIA Novosti.
“We don't outlaw anything and don't nab anyone. Our law prescribes no responsibility for these kinds of relationships unlike laws in some other countries do,” he said.
But he did emphasize that the law bans homosexual propaganda targeting minors.
Putin signed that bill into law last June, forbidding the promotion of homosexuality and other forms of “nontraditional sexual relations.” It also effectively outlawed “gay pride” festivals and attempts by foreign homosexualist activist groups to normalize their lifestyles or campaign for same-sex legal recognition.
The law outraged homosexual activists and foreign governments, and provoked threats of demonstrations and boycotts at Sochi.
However, the International Olympic Committee stated in September that the homosexual propaganda ban is not against its policies.
“The Games themselves should be open to all, free of discrimination, and that applies to spectators, officials, media and of course athletes. We would oppose in the strongest terms any move that would jeopardize this principle,” the IOC said. “To that end, the IOC has received assurances from the highest level of government in Russia that the legislation will not affect those attending or taking part in the Games.”
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Moreover, the IOC's charter specifically prohibits demonstrations or political propaganda in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.
Putin's statement at the meeting with Olympic volunteers came a day after he told foreign ambassadors in Moscow that the event would be held “without any discrimination” against athletes and visitors. He said that Russia will “do everything” to ensure a warm welcome for Sochi guests “regardless … of sexual orientation.”
“The games will be held in complete compliance with the Olympic Charter, without any discrimination on the basis of any characteristic,” Putin said, according to RIA Novosti.
While Russia's Interior Ministry said that police will enforce the law against homosexual propaganda, as well as quell any form of political protest in accordance with IOC rules, authorities said that at the Olympic sites in Sochi they will allow gatherings and demonstrations in specially designated areas with tight security.
Government spokesman Dmitry Peskov said all public gatherings and demonstrations must be authorized in advance by the Sochi municipal authorities as well as by regional divisions of the Interior Ministry and the Federal Security Service.
“The president has issued an instruction to the organizers of the Olympic Games, together with the leadership of Krasnodar Territory and the Sochi mayor's office, to select a venue in the city where rallies, demonstrations and other events, including, if necessary, protests, could be freely held,” Mr Peskov said, according to a BBC report.
The Sochi Olympics begin on February 7th.