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Putin offers assurances on gay rights at Olympics

BY LYNN BERRY, ASSOCIATED PRESS

NOVO-OGARYOVO, Russia -- President Vladimir Putin sought to ease concerns that Russia's new anti-gay law would be used to punish athletes who display rainbow flags during the Winter Olympics in Sochi, while insisting that gays are not discriminated against in his country.

"I assure you that I work with these people, I sometimes award them with state prizes or decorations for their achievements in various fields," Putin said in an interview with The Associated Press and Russia's state Channel 1 television late Tuesday. "We have absolutely normal relations, and I don't see anything out of the ordinary here."

He added that Russians love Tchaikovsky even though the composer was said to have been a homosexual. "Truth be told, we don't love him because of that, but he was a great musician and we all love his music," Putin said.

Putin offered to meet with members of the gay and lesbian community if they asked to see him.

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