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With only days to go before the Sochi Winter Olympics, Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to assure tourists from around the world that the games will be safe. He also sparked controversy this weekend for saying that although gays are welcome, they should “leave the children in peace.”
As the threat of terrorism looms over the games, which are being held close to the dangerous Caucasus region, Putin told reporters Friday that the games are going to be safe. “We have a perfect understanding of the scope of the threat and how to deal with it and how to prevent it,” Putin said, notes The LA Times. “I hope that our law enforcement agencies will deal with it with honor and dignity, the way it was during other major sports and political events.”
The interview aired on Sunday and several international networks were there, with ABC as the only one from the U.S.
“Our task as organizers is to ensure the security of athletes and guests at this major sports event, and we will do our best," Putin said. "We will protect our air and sea space as well as the mountain cluster."
The games will take place just months after attacks in Volgograd in October and December. A radical Islamist group said in a video Sunday that it was responsible for the December attacks and urged Russia to “immediately withdraw from the lands of the Caucasus.”
NBC News also reports that authorities are looking for Ruzana Ibragimova, a woman with a scar on her cheek. Officials fear that she may carry out an attack during the games. An Islamist group also claimed this weekend that it has a “surprise” ready for tourists and Putin.
Putin also made headlines for a meeting with volunteers, in which he commented on the controversial law in Russia banning open support of homosexuality. “There is no ban on non-traditional forms of sexual interaction between people. We have a ban on propaganda of homosexuality,” he said, reports The New York Post. “We ban nothing, we aren’t going after anyone, we have no responsibility for such contacts.”
He later added, “We have no such thing, people can feel free and at ease but please leave the children in peace.”
In the Friday interview, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos also asked about allegations of corruption while preparing for the games, which Putin denied.
“So far we are not seeing any major, large-scale 'signs of corruption' as part of the implementation of the Sochi project,” he said, according to ABC News. “What there is what I've already mentioned - namely, contractors' attempts at price- gouging.”
The Winter Olympics start on Feb. 7.
image: Wikimedia Commons