Russian President Vladimir Putin promises no problems at the upcoming Sochi Olympics, but says that Russia needs to get rid of homosexuality. Putin has come under fire almost since the anti-propaganda law governing homosexuality was passed in June 2013.
The anti-propaganda law has caused many gay rights activists to call upon athletes to boycott the Games, and several bars and pubs have decided to no longer serve Russian vodka in support of the boycott. The anti-propaganda law states that there is to be no dissemination of literature about homosexuality, particularly among minors. The Russian government said in passing the bill that it believes that a child’s sexual orientation could be influenced should they receive such literature.
In an interview broadcast Sunday on Russian television, the Russian president refused to answer a question about whether he believes that people are born gay or made to be gay. Putin did say, however, in an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopolous that he did not believe that homosexuals could feel discriminated against because of the anti-propaganda law.
While Putin has promised no problems at the Sochi Olympics, critics and gay rights advocates alike say that the anti-propaganda law implies any symbol of homosexuality, including the wearing of a rainbow pin, could be deemed illegal and net the wearer serious fines. Putin has been staunch in his belief that the anti-propaganda law does nothing to discriminate. He has, however, made clear his and the government’s desire to keep the children of Russia safe.
The U.S. delegation for the Sochi Games includes athletes like tennis legend Billie Jean King, figure skating star Brian Boitano and hockey medalist Caitlin Cahow. All are openly homosexual, and in a recent interview, King implored the Russian president to change the law so that it would be inclusive for all groups.
For his part, Putin has said that he would welcome the opportunity to meet with the U.S. delegation. Gay rights advocates have said that the anti-propaganda law has done nothing but make homosexuals in Russia feel threatened. Russian-American journalist Masha Gessen said she went to New York due to the perceived increased threat levels against those who are homosexual and their supporters.
There have also been accusations that the $51 billion price tag of the Sochi Games is due to corruption in Russia. Putin has said that the budgetary setbacks are largely due to the lack of construction experience for projects on an Olympics scale, and denied claims of any corruption in his country.
The Russian president welcomed those with objective proof that there had been corruption, leading to a third of the Sochi budget being stolen, to come forward. He said that he has not seen any signs of corruption throughout the construction period.
Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden has also been invited to travel the country as freely as he would like. Russia granted the whistleblower asylum some time ago, following accusations that Snowden disclosed the contents of several files to global media outlets. Snowden, who has been charged with espionage, continues to seek permanent asylum in Russia, where he lives in an undisclosed location.
As Putin promises no problems at the Sochi Olympics, he said that he believes the global audience for the Games will see a different side to his country. He said that the Olympics will serve as a bridge between his country and others to a new understanding of what Russia is truly about.
By Christina St-Jean