MOSCOW (AFP) – Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday vowed there would be no discrimination against gays at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, despite a storm of controversy over a new law banning the dissemination of gay “propaganda” to minors.
In an interview with Channel One television, Putin dismissed speculation about the law and argued that the legislation was directed only against the propaganda of “non-traditional” sexual relations among minors.
“We don’t have any laws pointed against persons with a non-traditional sexual orientation here in Russia,” Putin said. “Russia has adopted a law that prohibits the propaganda of unconventional sex relations among minors, which is a completely different case.”
The law on gay “propaganda,” which was signed by Putin earlier this year, has prompted calls for a boycott of Sochi or for the Games to be moved outside Russia.
“I can assure you that during the Olympics or any other major sports events, Russia will strictly stick to the Olympic principles which forbid any kind of discrimination of people on any basis,” Putin said.
Putin added that the law was aimed not at discrimination but reversing Russia’s alarming demographic decline.
“The people who initiated the enactment of this bill acted on the premise that the same-sex marriages cannot produce children,” the president said.
“Meanwhile, Russia is experiencing certain demographic problems and we’re interested to have more traditional families and more children.”
He noted that most people believe that the great Russian composer Tchaikovsky was gay. “So what? There is no need to make a mountain out of a molehill and nothing terrible is happening in the country.”
Putin said Russia had beefed up security measures ahead of the Sochi Games to ensure the safety of the event.
“Terrorists always threaten somebody. If we will be afraid of their threats it will mean that they have won,” the president said.
“However it doesn’t mean that we shall neglect these threats. We shall do everything depending on us to cut them off, to give the terrorists no chance for a display of their violence.”
The president stressed the importance of cooperation between the law enforcement authorities of different countries to guarantee the absolute security of the Games.
“I can report that we have reached the agreement with our American and European partners,” he said.
“These people realise perfectly their responsibility towards the security of the athletes, sports lovers and spectators.
Putin said that the preparations for the 2014 Winter Olympics would cost Russia around 214 billion roubles ($6.5 billion dollars) adding that even more funding were invested into the development of infrastructure of Russia’s southern region to make it more attractive for tourists.
“We did it deliberately to make the southern part of the Russian Federation a more attractive and comfortable place not only during the Olympic Games but for the decades after it,” Putin said.