Despite equating gays with pedophiles, Russian president Vladimir Putin on Sunday said that his country does not hate homosexuals, and pointed out that he was a fan of Elton John.
Calling John "an outstanding person [and an] outstanding musician", Putin told foreign journalists that "millions of our people sincerely love him despite his orientation."
Putin was talking to the media less than three weeks before the start of Winter Olympics on Feb. 7, an event which has received a number of boycott threats from gay rights activists protesting Russia's law on gay propaganda.
According to TMZ, John too had spoken against Russia's gay propaganda law at a concert in Moscow, last month. According to the law, it is a crime to spread information on homosexuality to minors. But Putin urged "people with non-traditional orientation" to come to the Games, noting that homosexuality was not a crime in the country.
"If you want my personal attitude, I would tell you that I don't care about a person's orientation and I myself know some people who are gay. We are on friendly terms. I'm not prejudiced in any way," Putin said, according to The Telegraph.
"I would like to draw your attention to the fact that in Russia, unlike in one third of the world's countries, being gay is not a crime. So there is no danger for people of this non-traditional sexual orientation to come to the Games."
US President Barack Obama announced in December that he was sending a delegation to the Winter Olympics that includes gay athletes such as tennis legend Billie Jean King and figure skater Brian Boitano.
"In the selection of this delegation, we are sending the message that the United States is a diverse place," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters last month, according to CNN.