With the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, less than a month away, the global community continues to demand answers about security from Vladimir Putin. Particularly for gay and lesbian athletes and fans who might run afoul of Russia's anti-LGBT laws just by setting foot in the country. Today, he suggested that people of all sexual orientations are perfectly welcome in Russia ... as long as they don't go after the children.
At a question and answer session with Olympic volunteers Friday, the Associated Press reports Putin was asked about his country's attitude towards gay athletes at the Games. "One can feel calm and at ease," he told the volunteer. "Just leave kids alone, please."
His statement was part of a longer answer about Russia's attitudes towards gay rights and how they differ from the Soviet Union, and from more liberal countries in Europe. Here is Putin's full response, from the Guardian:
"We are not forbidding anything and nobody is being grabbed off the street, and there is no punishment for such kinds of relations," said Putin. "You can feel relaxed and calm [in Russia], but leave children alone please," said Putin.
Last year, Russia passed laws banning homosexual "propaganda" in the name of protecting children. However, the term is so loosely defined, that some have interpreted as an outright ban on open homosexuality. There has been a rise of violent attacks against gays in Russia over the last year, too. But Putin continued to justify his country's harsh attitudes towards homosexuality by relating it with paedophelia:
"We do not have a ban on non-traditional sexual relationships," said Putin in comments reported by Russian agencies. "We have a ban on the propaganda of homosexuality and paedophilia. 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."
The Russian president will have plenty of time to discuss his points further during his Sunday appearance on ABC's This Week, where he'll be interviewed by George Stephanopoulos. Here are two pictures of the boys being bros:
Here's a photo of George George Stephanopoulos and Vladimir Putin. Details on the interview coming shortly. pic.twitter.com/5dM1srVhC1— Alex Weprin (@alexweprin) January 17, 2014
Putin's ABC interview is part of a larger global media tour ahead of the Olympic Games, which start on February 6. The president will sit with four other news outlets: The BBC, a Chinese television station, and two Russian TV channels. Oddly, ABC is the only channel Putin will speak with that will not be carrying the Olympics. In the U.S., the Olympics are broadcast on NBC, who have no plans to speak with Putin. (Yet.)