By Sunnivie Brydum
Originally published on Advocate.com January 20 2014 1:38 PM ET
Ramping up his hypocritical rhetoric in the weeks before his country hosts the Winter Olympics, Russian president Vladimir Putin said he isn't homophobic because he is on "friendly terms" with gay people.
Putin also bespoke an appreciation for out entertainer Sir Elton John, calling him an "extraordinary person, [and] a distinguished musician."
Putin's latest comments, made to BBC journalist Andrew Marr in Sochi on Sunday, mirror the president's claims when he spoke with ABC's George Stephanopoulos last week.
"I myself know some people who are gay — we are on friendly terms," Putin told Marr when asked about the country's nationwide ban on so-called gay propaganda. "I am not prejudiced in any way."
"If you want my personal attitude, I would tell you that I don’t care about a person’s sexual orientation," continued Putin, according to the UK Independent's translation of Putin's Russian.
When Marr asked if the Russian president would welcome notable out British celebrities Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Elton John, Putin chuckled and said he has given awards to LGBT Russians.
"When they achieve great success [they are honored]," said Putin, according to the Independent's translation. "For example, Elton John is a extraordinary person, a distinguished musician, and millions of our people sincerely love him, regardless of his sexual orientation."
Putin then reiterated claims he's made earlier that the nationwide law, which bans "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations" in forums visible to minors, could not be considered discriminatory because it has "nothing to do with persecuting individuals for their sexual orientation."
"Read our law carefully — it’s called ‘a ban on the propaganda of pedophilia and homosexuality,'" Putin said. "It seems to me that the law we adopted doesn’t harm anybody. What’s more, homosexual people can’t feel inferior here because there is no professional career or social discrimination against them."
Meanwhile, a protestor was tackled to the ground and arrested in Russia Saturday when he unfurled a rainbow flag as the Olympic torch processional passed through his hometown of Voronezh, 560 miles north of Sochi. The young man was taken to the police station and was awaiting a court hearing Monday, according to Twitter user Gay Teen from Russia.