Russian President Vladimir Putin sat down with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos and other reporters about the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Not all questions were about the games, though. A few asked about security due to the numerous terrorist attacks in surrounding areas and the anti-gay propaganda law.
Putin was repeatedly asked if the athletes and tourists will be safe. Radical Muslims from the Caucasus region have attacked inside Russia, causing many countries to worry about security. He reassured everyone there will be tight security in Sochi, but everyone will be able to enjoy the games without much intrusion.
A total of approximately 40,000 law-enforcement personnel will be involved in providing security, as well as security services’ personnel. We’ll definitely take advantage of all the experience amassed in conducting similar events in other parts of the world and in other countries. That means that we’ll protect the air space and the marine water area and the mountainous cluster. I hope, I hope that all of this will be organized in such a way that it won’t be excessively obvious, won’t put any pressure on the athletes. I’d also note that starting on January 7, 2014, a special security regime was introduced to govern movements in Greater Sochi, human traffic and cargo movements.
He did not mention security outside of the resort town. Three attacks occurred in Volgograd, which is a major transportation hub between Moscow and southern Russia. The majority of the athletes and tourists will have to go through the city. On December 29, a suicide bomber detonated a bomb at a train station in Volgograd and killed 16 people and injured over 50. Less than 24 hours later another bomb exploded on a bus in a busy market and killed 14 people. In October, a female suicide bomber blew up a bus in the city and killed six people. Four cars were found with six dead bodies rigged with bombs in Stavropol, a city between Volgograd and Sochi, on January 9. Only one bomb exploded and no one was hurt.
Stephanopoulos asked Putin about the travel advisory the United States Department of State issued after the failed attack in Stavropol. Putin does not think it is necessary, but said a country must do what they think is best for their athletes. He only reiterated the same security talking points he used earlier. After the double bombing in December the United States offered Russia more security through the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Putin did not address this issue nor made it clear if he accepted the help offered by the US and other countries.
After security, the reporters dived into Russia’s controversial anti-gay propaganda law, which quickly flustered Putin. In June, they banned anyone from handing out any information on homosexuality to children. Putin tried to ease the reporters by saying homosexuality itself is not a criminal act and gay athletes and visitors will not be targeted. He did explain he is doing this to keep the children safe and that other European countries are doing much worse by proposing laws that legalize pedophilia. He also distinguished between a protest and propaganda.
PUTIN: Acts of protest and acts of propaganda are somewhat different things.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So if they wear a rainbow pin or kiss their partner.
PUTIN: They are close but if we were to look at them from the legal perspective, then protesting a law does not amount to propaganda of homosexuality or sexual abuse of children. That’s one. Two is that I’d like to ask our colleagues, my colleagues and friends that, as they try to criticize us they would do well to set their own house in order first. I did say, after all, and this is public knowledge that in some of the states in the US homosexuality remains a crime.
During a meeting with volunteers on Friday, Putin said gays will be safe in Sochi. He said they will not arrest anyone, but did ask gays to leave the children alone.