President Vladimir Putin
President Vladimir Putin says that he has “absolutely normal relations” with gay and lesbian people.
In an interview with AP and Russia’s state Channel 1 television, he addressed the international controversy surrounding his country’s recently enacted gay propaganda law and other policies affecting the rights of gays and lesbians.
“I assure you that I work with these people, I sometimes award them with state prizes or decorations for their achievements in various fields. We have absolutely normal relations, and I don’t see anything out of the ordinary here.”
Putin commented that Russians love the composer Tchaikovsky, despite the fact that he was gay.
“Truth be told, we don’t love him because of that, but he was a great musician and we all love his music,” Putin said.
He also offered to meet with members of the gay and lesbian community if they asked him to do so.
His recent signing of the law, which bans Pride events, posters, flyers or any attempt to promote LGBT equality in public, has seen calls for a boycott of the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi in February.
Putin gave the assurance that athletes who showed support for gay rights during the Sochi Olympics, such as holding up a rainbow flag, would not be punished.
This could be an attempt to avoid embarrassing scenarios in which athletes supporting gay rights would be arrested in front of millions of television viewers during the event.
The president has, however, banned demonstrations or rallies of any kind in Sochi during the period of the Games.
In addition to the gay propaganda law, Putin has also signed a law banning foreign gay and lesbian couples and any individuals living in countries that have legalised same-sex marriages from adopting Russian children to avoid them experiencing “complexes, emotional suffering and stress”.
According to LGBT activists, the enactment of these anti-gay laws has resulted in an upsurge in homophobic violence in Russia.