January 17 - Gay people should "leave children in peace", Russian President Vladimir Putin has said during a meeting today with Sochi 2014 volunteers.
Putin, who has been repeatedly criticised for legislation which bans "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations" to minors, made the comments at the Olympic Park just 21 days before the Opening Ceremony of the Games.
He told them gay people can "feel calm, at ease, but leave children in peace, please," Russian agencies reported.
He added: "We do not have a ban on non-traditional sexual relationships.
"We have a ban on the propaganda of homosexuality and paedophilia.
"I want to underline this.
"These are absolutely different things - a ban on something or a ban on the propaganda of that thing.
"We are not forbidding anything and nobody is being grabbed off the street, and there is no punishment for such kinds of relations."
His comments come just days after it was announced the location of a protest zone during the Games will be 18 kilometres from the Olympic Park, in the town of Khosta.
Putin had initially said all political protests would be banned as part of a security crackdown.
"At the park in Khosta, people can freely express their opinion [there], while not breaching the rights of other citizens or the Olympic Charter," Russia's deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak told R-Sport.
Yesterday, Finland's Minister for Sport and Culture, Paavo Arhinmäki, announced he is boycotting the Opening Ceremony of the Winter Olympics because of concerns over Russia's human rights record.
He told Finnish TV station YLE: "As a politician... one must not support violations of human rights, limitations in the freedom of speech or repressing of sexual minorities."
Earlier this week, Arhinmäki's counterpart in neighbouring Sweden, Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth, also announced she would not be attending the Opening Ceremony.
United States President Barack Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, German President Joachim Gauck, French leader François Hollande and the heads of Canada, Belgium, Lithuania, Moldova and Georgia have all indicated they will not be at Sochi 2014.
The official US delegation in Sochi will be led by openly gay athletes: former tennis player Billie Jean King, Caitlin Cahow, a two-time Olympic ice hockey medallist, and ex-Olympic skating champion Brian Boitano.
After the meeting with volunteers today, Putin said: "We very much hope that you, the volunteers, will create the unique atmosphere for the Games.
"It is on your ability to create this atmosphere that the mood of the Olympic guests and competitors will depend on.
"And this is one of the most important things in the Olympic programme."
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