Skip to main content

Putin says gays 'can feel safe' at Sochi Winter Olympics

By Laura Smith-Spark and Nic Robertson, CNN
updated 11:08 AM EST, Fri January 17, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin says homosexuals have nothing to fear in Russia
  • "You can feel safe and free here, but please leave our children in peace," he says
  • His remarks come as he meets volunteers for the upcoming Winter Olympics
  • Putin told ambassadors Thursday the games would be held "without any discrimination"

Sochi, Russia (CNN) -- Russia's Vladimir Putin again sought to downplay fears that gay visitors will be discriminated against as he paid a visit to the Sochi area Friday, exactly three weeks before the Winter Olympics get under way.

Putin's remarks came as he met with volunteers for the games, the state-run Itar-Tass news agency reported.

The President said Russia, unlike some other countries, does not criminalize homosexual relationships.

"We don't outlaw anything and don't nab anyone," Putin said.

Russian gay parents fear losing children
Russian gay rights activist may lose job
Gays face hatred attacks in Russia

"That's why you can feel safe and free here, but please leave our children in peace," he added.

Russia has come under international pressure since its parliament passed a law last summer outlawing "gay propaganda." The legislation makes it illegal to tell children about gay equality.

The law has been widely criticized by Western leaders who have called it archaic and discriminatory. Human rights activists say it proves Russia is unworthy of hosting the latest Winter Olympics.

Putin's meeting with the Olympic volunteers came a day after he told foreign ambassadors in Moscow that the event would be held "without any discrimination" against athletes and visitors.

"The games will be held in complete compliance with the Olympic Charter, without any discrimination on the basis of any characteristic," Putin said Thursday, according to state media.

The Olympic Charter states that: "Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement."

Police presence

Former gay Olympian: Don't boycott Sochi
Gay culture alive in Sochi, Russia
President Obama skipping Sochi Olympics

Security has been stepped up in and around Sochi ahead of the Games.

A twin bomb attack on public transit in the southern city of Volgograd at the end of December heightened concerns that Islamist terrorists may seek to strike in Sochi.

There was a heavy police presence on the streets of the Black Sea resort Friday as Putin visited the area.

Two security blimps also hovered in the skies above the Sochi Olympic Village, allowing long-range monitoring of activities on the ground.

Meanwhile, last-minute construction work continues apace ahead of the expected influx of 6,000 athletes from 85 countries and thousands more visitors from around the world.

The event has cost at least $50 billion to stage, including major infrastructure work in and around Sochi.

READ: Is Russia about to pass another anti-gay law?

READ: Russia's 'anti-gay' law pushes gay community into shadows

CNN's Nic Robertson reported from Sochi and Laura Smith-Spark wrote and reported in London. CNN's Phil Black and Richard Allen Greene contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 4:01 PM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
The U.S. has promised to supply and train "acceptable" rebels in Syria to counter ISIS. But who are they and are can the strategy work?
updated 8:39 PM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
Branded an "extremist" by China's state-run media, Joshua Wong isn't even old enough to drive.
updated 2:55 AM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi surprised political pundits with his rapid rise to power. CNN meets the man behind the enigma.
updated 7:44 AM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
Liverpool's Italian forward Mario Balotelli reacts during the UEFA Champions League Group B match between Liverpool and Ludogorets Razgrad at the Anfield stadium in Liverpool on September 16, 2014.
British police launched an investigation into abusive tweets sent to Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli.
updated 7:44 PM EDT, Sun September 21, 2014
A woman who was texting her husband before he was killed reflects on the Westgate attack.
updated 6:49 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
British PM David Cameron has had the narrowest of political escapes.
The burial leader. The hospital gatekeeper. The disease detective. All telling powerful, stories from West Africa.
updated 11:54 AM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
The real secret to a faster commute has been with us all along -- the bus.
updated 9:16 AM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
13 brands retained their Top 20 status from last year, according to an annual survey.
updated 11:49 AM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
Think your new tattoo is cool? Look at how our ancestors did it and think again.
updated 7:00 AM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT