By Chris Mascaro
January 17, 2014

Vladimir Putin (center) (Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images) Rainbow-colored outfits for volunteers invoked questions about gay rights to Vladimir Putin (center). (Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images)

Gay rights has been a theme leading up to the Sochi Games because of Russia's anti-gay initiatives, including a law on "homosexual propaganda" that was enacted last year.

Russian president Vladimir Putin said members of the LGBT community will not be subjected to harassment at the Olympics — so long as they stay away from children, The Guardian reported on Friday, citing Russian media outlets.

"We do not have a ban on non-traditional sexual relationships," Putin said during a meeting with thousands of Olympic volunteers in Sochi. "We have a ban on the propaganda of homosexuality and pedophilia. I want to underline this. Propaganda among children. These are absolutely different things — a ban on something or a ban on the propaganda of that thing."

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Putin added that he believes Russia is more liberal on gay rights than many other countries, including the U.S., where he said homosexuality is still punishable by law in some states.

"We are not forbidding anything, and nobody is being grabbed off the street, and there is no punishment for such kinds of relations," Putin said. "You can feel relaxed and calm [in Russia], but leave children alone please."

The propaganda law may prevent athletes or spectators from displaying rainbow flags or gay rights placards, The Guardian reports.

And while Putin has maintained that nobody will be discriminated against at the Games, he said on Friday that Russia is a traditional country and refuses to accept "European values on sexual orientation," according to The Guardian.

"What, are we supposed to follow along like obedient lapdogs, towards whatever consequences await?" he asked. "We have our own traditions, our own culture. We have respect for all of our international partners and ask that they also respect our own traditions and culture."
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