Putin says gays 'can feel safe' at Sochi Winter Olympics

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(CNN) -- Russia's Vladimir Putin again sought to downplay fears that gay visitors will be discriminated against as he paid a visit to the Sochi area on Friday, exactly three weeks before the Winter Olympics get under way.

Putin's remarks came as he met with volunteers for the games, state-run Itar-Tass news agency reported.

The president said Russia, unlike some other countries, does not criminalize homosexual relationships.

"We don't outlaw anything and don't nab anyone," Putin said.

"That's why you can feel safe and free here but please leave our children in peace," he added.

Russia has come under international pressure since its parliament passed a law last summer outlawing "gay propaganda." The legislation makes it illegal to tell children about gay equality.

The law has been widely criticized by Western leaders who have called it archaic and discriminatory. Human rights activists say it proves Russia is unworthy of hosting the latest Winter Olympics.

Putin's meeting with the Olympic volunteers came a day after he told foreign ambassadors in Moscow that the event would be held "without any discrimination" against athletes and visitors.

"The games will be held in complete compliance with the Olympic Charter, without any discrimination on the basis of any characteristic," Putin said Thursday, according to state media.

The Olympic Charter states that: "Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement."

CNN's Phil Black contributed to this report.


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