Russia’s law banning gay “propaganda” does not harm anybody and there is “no danger” for homosexual competitors or spectators at the forthcoming Winter Olympics, Vladimir Putin has said.
The Russian president insisted there was no professional or social discrimination against gays in Russia and said Sir Elton John, who condemned the law during a recent performance in Moscow, was an “extraordinary person” loved by millions “regardless of his sexual orientation”.
There has been an international backlash over the law and high-profile calls for a boycott of the Sochi Games in protest.
However, in an interview on BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show, the Russian premier said: “We have recently passed a law prohibiting propaganda, and not of homosexuality only, but of homosexuality and child abuse, child sexual abuse.
“But this is nothing to do with persecuting individuals for their sexual orientation. There’s a world of difference between these things. So there’s no danger for individuals of this non-traditional sexual orientation, who are planning to come to the Games as visitors, or participants.”
He added: “Read our law carefully – and pay attention to its name. It’s called a ‘ban on the propaganda of paedophilia and homosexuality’. There are countries, including in Europe, where they’re debating the possibility of legalising paedophilia. Publicly discussing this, in parliament.
“They can do what they want, but the people of Russia have their own cultural code, their own traditions.
“It seems to me that the law we adopted doesn’t harm anybody. What’s more, homosexual people can’t feel inferior here, because there is no professional, career or social discrimination against them.
“When they achieve great success, for example Elton John – he’s an extraordinary person, a distinguished musician, and millions of our people sincerely love him, regardless of his sexual orientation.”
Asked whether athletes or spectators who protest against the law could face action, Mr Putin said: “Protest actions and propaganda are two slightly different things. Similar, but from a legal point of view, protesting against a law is not the same as propaganda for homosexuality or child abuse.”
In a separate interview, Mr Putin denied that any large-scale corruption surrounded the Sochi Winter Olympics and challenged those with allegations of misconduct to come forward with proof.
Western and Russian opposition critics have made
allegations that large amounts of money have been stolen during construction for the 2014 Olympics in the Black Sea city, but have provided little concrete evidence.
Some Olympic subcontractors have said corruption has been endemic during preparations for the Games, which start on 7 February.
“We don’t see any large-scale instances of corruption during our preparations . . . in Sochi. If anyone has any information about corruption in Sochi, please hand it over, we will be glad and grateful,” Mr Putin said.
“A few years ago local bureaucrats tried to buy and sell land intended for Olympic venues. Investigations were carried out, these people were tried by Russian courts and are serving their punishments.”
Russia has spent more than
£30 billion on preparations for the Games, making them the most expensive in Olympic history.
Mr Putin’s government hopes to show the world a modern face of Russia, which has faced increased criticism from the West over human rights.