UK

Vladimir Putin Uses The 'Some Of My Best Mates Are Gay' Defence Over Homophobia Claims

19/01/2014 09:51 GMT | Updated 25/01/2014 21:01 GMT

President Vladimir Putin has denied homosexuals are unwelcome in Russia and at the Winter Olympics by saying: "I'm not prejudice in anyway."

In a rare interview with the BBC's Andrew Marr, Putin strongly hinted that protests by athletes at the coming Winter Olympics in Sochi would not be punished under Russian law.

He also said gay people like Sir Elton John act as an inspiration to millions of people, regardless of sexual orientation.

"I don't care about a person's orientation," he told Marr in a short one-to-one interview. "I myself know some people who are gay; we're on friendly terms. I'm not prejudice in anyway."

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Putin gave an interview to BBC1's Andrew Marr

There has been an international backlash over the law and high-profile calls for a boycott of the Sochi games in protest at the legislation.

The Russian premier added: "We have recently passed a law prohibiting propaganda, and not of homosexuality only, but of homosexuality and child abuse, child sexual abuse.

"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."

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.

"They can do what they want, but the people of Russia have their own cultural code, their own traditions.

"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.

"When they achieve great success, for example Elton John - he's an extraordinary person, a distinguished musician, and millions of our people sincerely love him, regardless of his sexual orientation."

Asked whether athletes or spectators who protest against the law could face action. 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."

He was also asked about security at the winter Olympics. "Extremists are always trying to draw attention to themselves. They are narrow-minded people. The whole world sees them as criminals with no regard for human life."

He also thanked thanks US and UK for helping in war on terrorism.