With the Sochi Winter Olympic games just three weeks away, Russian President Vladimir Putin repeated promises Friday that gay visitors would not face discrimination in his country.
Citing the state-run Itar-Tass news agency, CNN reports that Putin offered the assurances while meeting with a group of volunteers near Sochi. Gay visitors “can feel safe and free here. But please leave our children in peace,” the Russian president said.
Yesterday, Putin promised foreign ambassadors in Moscow that the games would be run “without any discrimination” and “in complete compliance with the Olympic charter.”
The Russian-hosted Sochi Olympics have come under fire since the country passed controversial legislation that bans “propaganda” for “nontraditional sexual relations” in June.
Western leaders have criticized the law, and gay rights groups have called for countries to boycott the games. In what some see as a sign of protest, President Obama decided not to attend the Sochi games and named several gay athletes to the U.S. Olympic delegation.
Meanwhile, the excitement that normally surrounds Olympic games has been overshadowed by fears of terrorism. Following suicide bombings in the city of Volgograd, which is about 600 miles Northeaast of Sochi, the U.S. State Department issued a travel alert to tourists.
The Sochi Olympics are expected to be the most expensive games ever, in part due to added security measures by the Russian government.