Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday that Russia’s new anti-gay law does not discriminate against anyone and that everyone will be welcome at the Sochi Olympics in February.
“It seems to me that the law that we have adopted does not hurt anyone,” Putin said in an interview with a group of reporters Friday. ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulous was the only U.S. reporter included in the interview. “We will welcome all athletes and all visitors to the Olympics. None of our guests will have any problems.”
Putin tried to defend the law, which bans what it calls “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” around minors, by emphasizing it is designed to protect children. “My personal position is that society must keep children safe,” he said.
Activists in Russia and other critics argue that public displays of affection between gay couples and pro-gay symbols could be considered criminal under the law.
Putin made similar comments during a Q&A session with Olympic volunteers on Friday. When asked about the controversy, he said, “one can feel calm and at ease. Just leave kids alone, please.”
When speaking to reporters, Putin insisted that gay Olympic attendees will not confront bias. “Individuals of non-traditional orientation cannot feel like second-rate humans in this country because they are not discriminated against in any way,” he said.
A video released Sunday points to threats more pressing than those of “propaganda.” The militant group responsible for the recent suicide bombing in the Russian city of Volgograd threatened more bombings if the Olympics proceed as planned.