Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko has claimed the controversy over the country’s anti-gay law is “an invented problem” by Western mass media.
Debate over the law, which was introduced in June and makes it illegal to give under 18s information about homosexuality, has intensified during the World Championships in Moscow and threatens to overshadow the build-up to the Winter Olympics in Sochi next year.
But Mutko, who is also of the chairman of the Moscow 2013 Organising Committee, insisted the issue had been blown out of all proportion.
Speaking at a press conference today, Mutko said: “I think this is kind of an invented problem. We don’t have a law banning non-traditional sexual relations, we have a different law.
“It is the informational protection of the young generation. We want to prevent the young generation, whose psyche has not been formulated. We want to protect them against drunkenness, drugs and non-traditional sexual relations. We want them to grow up and when they become adults they have to define what they want.
“This is a law for the protection of children, but this law is not intended against anybody. It does not deprive anyone of their privacy or private life. I think mass media outside of Russia focus on this law more than they do in Russia.
“So I can say welcome to Russia, welcome to Sochi and all the rights and freedoms of all the people will be protected and will be secured, We are not going to deprive anybody.”
A number of athletes competing in Moscow over the last nine days have taken stands against the law, though.
American Nick Symmonds dedicated his world 800 metres silver medal to his gay and lesbian friends, while Swedish high jumper Emma Green-Tregaro painted her fingernails in the colours of the rainbow for her qualifying competition.
Home favourite Yelena Isinbayeva was forced to issue a statement clarifying her comments after attracting widespread criticism for branding Green-Tregaro’s actions “disrespectful” to Russia.
The pole vault champion said she was misunderstood.