Putin: I support anti-gay laws but I’m against ‘hatred towards anyone’

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In an attempt to dismiss concerns about LGBT athletes attending the Winter Olympics, President Vladimir Putin says he’s against “hatred” towards people of a “non-traditional sexual orientation” – but he continues to support the country’s anti-gay laws.

The Games are due to be held in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi in February 2014.

Reuters reports at a meeting with leaders of junior political parties on Wednesday, the Russian leader defended the legislation, saying it was meant to protect young people, but he added that “hatred towards anyone” was unacceptable.

“You know how much criticism I had to listen to, but all we did on the government and legislative level, to do with limiting (gay) propaganda among minors,” President Putin said.

“In the meantime we should not create a torrent of hatred towards anyone in society, including people of non-traditional sexual orientation.”

A federal bill banning gay “propaganda” was signed into law by President Putin in June.

It prescribes fines for providing information about homosexuality to people under the age of 18 – ranging from 4,000 roubles (£78) for an individual to 1m roubles (£19,620) for organisations.

“We are doing everything, both the organisers and our athletes and fans, so that participants and guests feel comfortable in Sochi, regardless of nationality, race or sexual orientation,” President Putin told Thomas Bach, the head of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), in October.

Earlier this month, Mr Bach dismissed calls for a boycott of the Sochi Winter Olympics because of Russia’s anti-gay laws at a United Nations meeting.

The UN General Assembly tabled a resolution calling for an Olympic truce during the Sochi Games including a landmark call for host countries like Russia “to promote social inclusion without discrimination of any kind.”

In September, Mr Putin insisted that the legislation only bans the “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors,” and argued that there was “no infringement on the rights of sexual minorities.”

Campaigners note that there has been an increase in violence and state persecution against LGBT people in Russia following the passing of the laws.