Winter Olympics: Putin cautions gay visitors to Sochi

Mr Putin rarely gives interviews to foreign journalists, but spoke with the BBC's Andrew Marr ahead of the Winter Olympics

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has said homosexuals will be welcome in Sochi for the Olympics but warned them against spreading "gay propaganda".

"We don't have a ban on non-traditional sexual relations," he said. "We have a ban on promoting homosexuality and paedophilia among minors."

He was speaking in Sochi to volunteers due to help at next month's games.

Mr Putin told BBC News Russia would ensure security for the games without it impacting unduly on the event.

Start Quote

You can feel free in your relationships but leave children in peace”

End Quote Vladimir Putin Russian president

Speaking to BBC One's Andrew Marr Show nearly three weeks after the deadly suicide bombings in Volgograd, he said the international community should unite against terrorism.

Denying that the Winter Olympics was aimed at increasing his personal prestige, it said it was a chance to boost Russian morale after the difficult years which followed the collapse of the USSR in 1991.

Rainbow games?

One of the volunteers at Friday's meeting commented on Sochi's rainbow-coloured uniforms and asked if they might be breaching the ban on gay propaganda.

Mr Putin replied that he had not designed the uniform.

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks to Olympic volunteers in Sochi, 17 January Russia has trained 25,000 volunteers to work at the Sochi Games

"We are not banning anything and we won't arrest anyone," Mr Putin said, in televised remarks.

"You can feel free in your relationships but leave children in peace."

Gay rights campaigners around the world have called for a boycott of the Winter Olympics in protest at Russia's controversial new legislation, which was passed in June.

The amendment to the child protection law prescribes fines for providing information about homosexuality to people under 18. These range from 4,000 roubles (£78; $121) for an individual to 1m roubles for organisations.

Critics say the amendment's loose wording, and its free interpretation by the authorities, effectively make any kind of public gay rights event in Russia impossible.

Some national leaders have indicated they will not attend the games, which run from 7 to 23 February.

US President Barack Obama pointedly announced he was sending an Olympic delegation that includes several openly gay sports figures, among them tennis legend Billie Jean King.

Call to unite

Just before the new year holiday, suicide bombers attacked Volgograd's central railway station and a trolleybus, killing 32 people in addition to themselves and wounding about 70.

The bombings followed threats from Islamist militants in Russia's troubled North Caucasus to disrupt the Olympics with attacks.

Militants attacked a restaurant in Makhachkala, Dagestan, on Friday, injuring seven people.

"I think the international community should unite to fight such inhuman phenomena as terror attacks and the murder of totally innocent people," Mr Putin told the BBC.

"Our task as the organisers is to ensure the safety of those taking part in the Olympics and those attending this sporting event."

But Russia would seek to carry out security measures which did not distract from the Games, he said.

On the aim of the Sochi Games, Mr Putin said: "This is not my personal ambition but the direct, concentrated interest of the state and our people."

"After the collapse of the USSR, after the bloody events in the Caucasus, the general mood of society was sombre and pessimistic, and we need to give ourselves a shake," the Russian president said.

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