Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday said gays need not fear persecution at the Winter Olympic Games, but stood by a controversial ban on promoting homosexuality to children.
"We don't have a ban on non-traditional sexual relations between people," Putin told a group of volunteers who will be working at the Games.
"We have a ban on the propaganda of homosexuality and paedophilia," Putin said in televised comments from the host city Sochi, with three weeks to go until the event.
"We don't ban anything and we won't arrest anyone," he said. "Therefore you can feel calm, relaxed. But leave children alone please."
Gay rights activists around the world have called for a boycott of the Sochi Winter Olympics in protest against a law banning the dissemination of so-called "gay propaganda" to minors.
The president's comments, reiterating a stance that suggests homosexuals prey on young people, were unlikely to appease critics of the ban.
One of the volunteers, set to assist visitors at the Games, commented on their rainbow-coloured uniforms and asked if they could be breaching the ban on gay propaganda, the Interfax news agency reported.
"How did it happen that we have a law banning gay propaganda, but the volunteers' uniform is rainbow coloured?" she asked.