Putin: Gays, Lesbians Welcome in Sochi for Olympics

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(CNN) -- Russian President Vladmir Putin on Monday said everyone will be welcomed to next year's Winter Olympics in Russia, regardless of sexual orientation -- comments that come on the heels of a controversial Russian law on homosexuality.

Putin made his latest assurances on the matter as he welcomed International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach and other sports officials to his summer residence in Sochi -- the Black Sea resort town where the Games will happen in February -- state-run RIA Novosti news agency reported.

"We are doing everything, both the organizers and our athletes and fans, so that participants and guests feel comfortable in Sochi, regardless of nationality, race or sexual orientation," Putin said, according to RIA Novosti.

Putin in June signed a law that prohibits in Russia the distribution of information to minors that promotes same-sex relationships. The legislation gives authorities the power to impose fines as well as detain and deport foreigners who are deemed to have breached the law.

The law sparked global outrage and a wave of protests demanding a boycott of the Games. In September, pop singer Cher said she had refused an invitation to perform because of the legislation.

Putin also said in an interview on state television in September that gay people would not be discriminated against at the Sochi Games. But that appeared at odds with statements made by government officials that the anti-gay propaganda law would be enforced.

The IOC in August said it received assurances "from the highest level of government in Russia" that the law would not affect people attending or taking part in the Games. The next month, the IOC said the law did not violate the Olympic Charter

In August, U.S. President Barack Obama rejected calls for his country to boycott the Games, saying such a move would hurt American athletes who trained and sacrificed to qualify.

CNNMoney's Virginia Harrison contributed to this report.

CNN Staff


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