News / Europe

    Putin Says Russia Not 'Going After' Gays

    Security guards check visitors at the entrance to the olympic park in Adler near Sochi, Jan. 16, 2014.
    Security guards check visitors at the entrance to the olympic park in Adler near Sochi, Jan. 16, 2014.
    Reuters
    Russia is not “going after” gays, President Vladimir Putin said on Friday, defending a ban on “propaganda” about homosexuality that has brought criticism from the West ahead of the Winter Olympics.
     
    The Kremlin hopes the games, starting on Feb. 7 in the city of Sochi on the Black Sea, will showcase Russia's modern face more than two decades after the Soviet Union collapsed.
     
    Putin has identified himself closely with the $50 billion event and also pledged Russia will do everything to ensure safe Games in spite of security concerns.
     
    But Russia last year upset the West and human rights activists by banning what it called the promotion of homosexuality among minors. Calls for a mass boycott of the games have failed, but the row has clouded the build-up to the event.
     
    Critics say the law is discriminatory and part of a rolling back of human rights and democratic freedoms under Putin, who has taken a more conservative course on social issues since returning to the presidency in mid-2012.
     
    “There is no ban on non-traditional forms of sexual interaction between people. We have a ban on propaganda of homosexuality,” Putin told a meeting with young volunteers preparing for the games.
     
    “We ban nothing, we aren't going after anyone, we have no  responsibility for such contacts.”
     
    Putin said some U.S. states had laws envisaging criminal responsibility for gay sexual intercourse.
     
    “We have no such thing, people can feel free and at ease but please leave the children in peace,” he said.
     
    Putin did not elaborate. In a victory for gay rights activists, the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003 invalidated any remaining anti-sodomy laws that prohibited sex between adults of the same gender.
     
    In a clear message to Moscow, U.S. President Barack Obama included three openly gay athletes in his Olympic delegation and Britain said it would sent to Sochi a minister responsible for the country's same-sex marriage laws.
     
    Security
     
    Moscow has said it expects more than 6,000 athletes from 85 countries and hundreds of thousands of sports fans in Sochi.
     
    It has also introduced a security clampdown in the city, bringing in about 37,000 personnel to ensure safety after at least 34 people were killed last month in suicide bombings in the southern city of Volgograd, some 700 km (400 miles) northeast of Sochi.
     
    “Our task as the organizers is to ensure security to the participants of the Olympics and guests of this sports fete and we will do everything to that end,” Putin said in an interview with several TV channels, according to excerpts run by ITAR-TASS news agency on Friday evening.
     
    Putin vowed to annihilate “terrorists” after the bombings in Volgograd added to security fears ahead of the games in Sochi, a few hundred kilometers from the North Caucasus where Islamist separatists are fighting to carve out their own state.
     
    “If we allow ourselves to show weakness, show fear, then it means we will be aiding terrorists and the accomplishment of their goals,” Putin also said in the interview quoted on Friday.
     
    North Caucasus faces nearly daily violence and at least five people, including two policemen, were hospitalized after two blasts in the provincial capital of Makhachkala on Friday evening, security officials said.
     
    But, visibly relaxed and making jokes throughout the meeting with Sochi volunteers, Putin appeared confident and said he would like to go to some ice hockey matches during the Games if time allows.
     
    “Everybody in our country likes figure skating, I do too. I like cross-country skiing, biathlon, Alpine skiing. This is what I know and what I like,” Putin also said.

    You May Like

    Russian-Backed Offensive in Syria Pushes War to Tipping Point

    As threat to Aleppo and rebel forces grows, US plan to negotiate becomes less and less appealing for Syrian government, says one military analyst

    IS Runs Timber Smuggling Business in Afghanistan, Officials Say

    Government turning blind eye to smuggling, according to tribal leaders; Afghanistan's forest cover dropped by 50 percent in three decades, experts say

    Video White House Seeks $1.8 Billion to Combat Zika

    Obama administration says funding would 'support essential strategies to combat the virus' such as rapidly expanding mosquito control programs, accelerating vaccine research

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.