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Russia's Yelena Isinbayeva kisses her gold medal at the women's pole-vault victory ceremony during the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Moscow on August 15.
Russian pole-vault champion Yelena Isinbayeva has reacted to strong criticism of her remarks about homosexuals, saying she was misunderstood and opposes sexual discrimination.

In a statement released on August 16, Isinbayeva said English was not her first language and that might have led to misunderstandings.

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

Isinbayeva sparked the controversy with her comments at a news conference in Moscow on August 15.

"If we allow to promote [gay relations] and do all this stuff on the street, we are very afraid about our nation because we consider ourselves normal, standard people where boys live with women, women live with boys and everything must be fine here," she said then.

"It comes from the history. We never had any problems -- I mean these problems -- in Russia and we don't want to have them in the future."

Those comments came in reaction to competitors at the World Athletics Championships under way in Moscow who painted their fingernails in rainbow colors, which are a symbol of gay pride.

She said on August 15 that sporting events should be about competition and the athletes and not become a forum for debating social issues.

"I feel sorry that [gay-rights activists] are trying to involve the athletes in such a problem, because we do not prohibit athletes from participating in Sochi [Olympic Games] even if they have a nontraditional relationship," she said.

"So, it doesn't matter, because we don't care about this, we don't care about nationalities, about different skin colors, race -- we don't care, we are athletes, we're one family and we work very hard for only one goal -- to [win] a gold medal in Olympic Games, to participate in Olympic Games."

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed legislation in June prohibiting "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations among minors," sparking an international outcry among human rights activists who say it promotes discrimination.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and AP
Protesters holding anti-Vladimir Putin posters march past the British prime minister's residence on Downing Street in central London on August 10.
Russia's passage of anti-LGBT legislation, which was followed by a series of online videos showing violence against gays, has sparked protests in cities around the world. Much of the anger has been directed at Russian President Vladimir Putin. See the running list below.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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