Russian Sports Minister says anti-gay controversy is "an invented problem" by Western media

Sunday, 18 August 2013
By Mike Rowbottom at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko claims that the controversy over his country's controversial anti-gay law is the "invention" of the mediaAugust 18 - Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko says the controversy over his country's anti-gay propaganda law is "an invented problem" by Western media.

The new legislation, which makes it illegal to give under-18s information about homosexuality, has led to calls for a boycott of next year's Winter Olympics in Russia.

Debate over the law, which was introduced in June, has intensified during the International Association of Athletics World Championships here.

But Mutko, chairman of the Moscow 2013 Organising Committee, told a press conference today the issue has been blown out of all proportion.

"I think this is kind of an invented problem," he said.

"We don't have a law banning non-traditional sexual relations, we have a different law.

"In no way this law is hurting the rights of citizens and guests, nor athletes, participants or organisers or who is coming to Russia.

"This law is about the informational protection of minors.

"We want to prevent the young generation, whose psyche has not been formulated.

"We want to protect our children from propaganda, drug addiction, drinking and non-traditional sexual relationships.

"We want that they grow up to decide themselves to take their decisions.

"This law is not against anyone.

"It does not affect anybody's personal life.

"Everybody's rights and freedom are secured in Sochi, in Russia.

"We will open up our country for the sport events.

"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."

The news came as two female Russian athletes kissed on the winner's podium at the World Athletics Championships - sparking a huge debate on Twitter and other media about whether it was in protest at the Government's anti-gay law.

World Championship gold medalists Tatyana Firova and Kseniya Ryzhova of Russia kiss on the podium during the medal ceremony for the women's 4x400 metres relay, which some have claimed was a proest against their country's anti-gay lawsWorld Championship gold medalists Tatyana Firova and Kseniya Ryzhova of Russia kiss on the podium during the medal ceremony for the women's 4x400 metres relay, which some have claimed was a proest against their country's anti-gay laws

But sources in the Russian camp claimed Kseniya Ryzhova and Tatyana Firova - who had just won gold in the 4x400 metres relay - were just exchanging a congratulatory kiss and there was no political message involved.

On Friday (August 16), Russian pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva had claimed she was "misunderstood" when she apparently spoke out in support of her country's controversial new laws on homosexuality.

Isinbayeva, 31, made her comments after other athletes made statements and gestures - including painting their nails in rainbow colours - opposing the Russian law.

"It's disrespectful to our country, disrespectful to our citizens because we are Russians," Isinbayeva told a news conference - in English - after Swedish athlete high jumper Emma Green-Tregaro criticised the law.

"Maybe we are different than European people and people from different lands."

Yelena Isinbayeva sparked controversy when she appeared to back Russia's controversial anti-gay law although she later claimed she was misunderstoodPole vault gold medallist Yelena Isinbayeva sparked controversy when she appeared to back Russias controversial anti-gay law although she later claimed she was misunderstood

However, a day later, Isinbayeva suggested she was misunderstood because English is not her first language.

"What I wanted to say was that people should respect the laws of other countries particularly when they are guests," she said in a statement.

"But let me make it clear I respect the views of my fellow athletes, and let me state in the strongest terms that I am opposed to any discrimination against gay people on the grounds of their sexuality, which is against the Olympic Charter."

Opponents of the law have called on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to remove Isinbayeva from her role as a Mayor of the Athletes' Village at Sochi 2014 and as an ambassador for the Summer Youth Olympics in Nanjing next year.

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