Putin offers new assurances to gays at Sochi Olympics but equates homosexuals with pedophiles

1/19/2014
ASSOCIATED PRESS
Sochi-Russia-Gays

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at his meeting with Olympic volunteers in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, Friday, Jan. 17, 2014. Putin says gays should feel welcome at the upcoming Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, but they must "leave the children in peace." Putin told volunteers Friday that gays visiting Sochi "can feel calm and at ease," and vowed that there would be no discrimination at the games. But he emphasized that, according to a law banning homosexual "propaganda" among minors, gays cannot express their views on gay rights issues to anyone underage. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky, Presidential Press Service)

ASSOCIATED PRESS

MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin has offered new assurances to gay athletes and fans attending the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics next month. Yet he defends Russia’s anti-gay law by equating gays with pedophiles and says Russia needs to “cleanse” itself of homosexuality if it wants to increase its birth rate.

Putin’s comments in a TV interview broadcast Sunday still show the wide gulf between the perception of homosexuality in Russia versus the West. A Russian law passed last year banning “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” among minors has caused an international outcry.

Putin refused to answer a question on whether he believes that people are born gay or become gay. The Russian law, however, suggests that information about homosexuality can influence a child’s sexual orientation.