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Putin promises gays will get warm welcome at Sochi Winter Olympics

Putin promises gays will get warm welcome at Sochi Winter Olympics
Greek actress Ino Menegaki lights the Olympic flame at a ceremony at the Temple of Hera, marking the beginning of its 123-day relay from Greece to Sochi for the 2014 Winter Olympics. (Flicker/International Olympic Committee)

SOCHI, Russia, Oct. 29 (UPI) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin promised gay visitors to the Winter Olympics in Sochi will be treated warmly, despite laws critics regard as anti-homosexual.

"We will do everything ... so that both the participants and guests feel comfortable in Sochi, regardless of ethnicity, racial heritage or sexual orientation," he said Monday at his Bocharov Ruchei residence, near the Black Sea resort of Sochi, at a meeting with International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach.

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The Winter Olympics will begin Feb. 7.

Putin signed legislation forbidding the promotion of homosexuality to minors in June, prompting some activists to call for a boycott of the Olympics.

He previously said there would be "no discrimination against people on any basis whatsoever" at the Games, although the Russian Interior Ministry, which controls the police, has started to enforce the controversial law at the Olympics, reported R-Sport, the sports website of the Russian news agency RIA Novosti.

Bach did not comment on the anti-gay issue, but said last month he did not want to see the Olympics to "be a marketplace for demonstrations for all potential issues in the world, even if they are the best ones."

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