04/09/2013 05:52 BST | Updated 04/09/2013 07:30 BST

Vladimir Putin Says Gay People Are Not Discriminated Against In Russia

A demonstrator holds a poster with the portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin during a protest march in Berlin, Germany, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013, against the new Russian anti-gay law. The new law penalizes anyone who distributes information aimed at persuading minors that "non-traditional" relationships are normal or attractive. (AP Photo/Gero Breloer)

Vladimir Putin has attempted to allay concerns ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics, insisting Russia's new anti-gay law is not discriminatory.

Campaigners have raised fears that the new legislation will be used to punish athletes who display rainbow flags during the Games in Sochi.

The president also insisted that gay people are not discriminated against in his country.

"I assure you that I work with these people, I sometimes award them with state prizes or decorations for their achievements in various fields," Putin said in an interview with Associated Press and Russia's state Channel 1 television.

"We have absolutely normal relations and I don't see anything out of the ordinary here."

He added that Russians loved Tchaikovsky even though the composer was said to have been homosexual.

"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.

Putin offered to meet members of the gay and lesbian community if they asked to see him.

But gay rights groups in Russia have said the new law has sparked a wave of violence against the gay and lesbian community.

A number of shocking videos posted online by a Russian vigilante group, appear to show the persecution of gay and transgendered people in a bid to "cure" them of not being heterosexual.

Since the law was passed, a disturbing trend among Russian social media has escalated involving anti-gay and anti-trans Russian hate groups luring young gay and trans individuals through the Internet into a real life meeting.

The self-proclaimed "vigilantes" then beat, torture and humiliate the young victims while filming the attack, and then post the video on popular Russian social media sites.

The law on "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations," was passed by politicians in Russia's lower house of parliament, the Duma.

The law prohibits providing information about homosexuality to people under 18, imposes hefty fines and also subjects foreign citizens to up to 15 days in prison.

While Russian officials have reassured the International Olympic Committee that Russia will not discriminate against homosexual people during the Games in Sochi, which take place from 7-23 February next year, they have also said the law will be enforced.

This has left open the question of what would happen to athletes or fans if they made statements or gestures that could be considered propaganda.

In the interview at his country residence outside Moscow, Putin said they would not be punished. But he clearly has no intention of allowing a gay pride parade during the Olympics. Last month, he signed a decree banning all demonstrations and rallies in Sochi throughout the Winter Games.

Putin said he had full confidence in Russia's special services and law enforcement agencies to provide security during the Games.