Russian President Vladimir Putin has claimed he has no prejudice against gay people, adding that he is even on “friendly terms” with some.
His words follow an earlier statement in which he said gay people “can feel relaxed and comfortable” at the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi - as long as they “leave the children in peace”.
Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, Mr Putin asserted that there was a ban on the “propaganda of homosexuality” rather than being gay - a law which he claimed “doesn’t harm anyone,” or put gay people in danger.
The statement, apparently aimed at offering assurances to gay athletes and spectators, is set to cause further outrage however after Putin seemingly linked homosexuality with paedophilia.
“We have recently passed a law prohibiting propaganda, and not of homosexuality only, but of homosexuality and child abuse, child sexual abuse,” he said.
“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.”
Insisting that there was no professional or social discrimination against gay people in Russia, he used the example of Sir Elton John - who condemned the law during a recent performance in Moscow - as an “extraordinary person” loved by millions “regardless of his sexual orientation”.
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.”
The controversial law passed in June threatens fines for anyone who provides information about paedophilia and homosexuality to people under 18.
“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,” the Russian President told the BBC.
Asked whether athletes or spectators who protest against the law could face action against them, 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 the south Russian city of Voronezh on Saturday, security guards detained a gay rights protester for waving a rainbow flag in an attempt to disrupt the Olympic torch relay.
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