Russian President Vladimir Putin has he is ready to meet representatives of Russia's gay community to discuss their concerns about a recent law banning "gay propaganda."
Putin made the remark on September 4 in interviews with the AP news agency and Russian TV's Channel One on the eve of a Group of 20 (G20) summit in St. Petersburg.
He dismissed allegations that gays face discrimination in Russia, saying "they are absolutely fully valued citizens."
The Russian president said gays in Russia enjoy equal treatment at the workplace, and receive "awards and medals" for their achievements.
He also vowed there would be no discrimination against gays at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Putin signed legislation in June prohibiting "propaganda for nontraditional sexual relations among minors." The move sparked an international outcry among human rights activists who say it discriminates against individuals according to their sexual orientation.
Putin, however, rejected such condemnations.
"There are no laws against individuals of nontraditional sexual orientations," he said. "By saying so, you sort of create an illusion for millions of your viewers that we do have such laws. The truth is, there are no such laws in Russia. There is a law that was adopted in Russia, which forbids propaganda for nontraditional sexual orientations among minors. These are two completely different things."
In a statement on September 4, the London-based Amnesty International human rights organization urged world leaders gathering in St. Petersburg to "do all in their power" to persuade Russian authorities to scrap the law.
And during a visit to Sweden on the same day, U.S. President Barack Obama called for equal rights for gays, saying: "We share a belief in dignity and equality of every human being; that our daughters deserve the same opportunities as our sons; that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters must be treated equally under the law."
The White House hastily added the Sweden visit to Obama's schedule after he scrapped plans to meet one-on-one with Putin in Moscow ahead of the G20 summit in response to Russia granting temporary asylum to Edward Snowden. The former intelligence agency contractor has leaked details about secret U.S. government spying programs.
Putin spoke on September 4 about Snowden, saying Moscow will not extradite him due to the lack of an extradition agreement between Russia and the United States.
"It is not a question of us protecting [Edward] Snowden," he said. "We are not protecting him at all. The problem is that we do not have an agreement with the United States about the mutual extradition of criminals. We have offered to the United States to sign such an agreement but this has been rejected. Having no such agreement with the United States, as a sovereign country we have no choice but to grant [Edward Snowden] a residence permit."
Putin also mentioned the upcoming elections for Moscow mayor and took the opportunity to criticize opposition candidate Aleksei Navalny.
Putin addressed concerns about security at the Olympic Games in Sochi, saying that being afraid of terrorists "means they have won."
He vowed Russia's security forces would be vigilant and would "not give the terrorists a single chance to demonstrate their brutality and hatred of mankind."
With reporting by AP, Reuters, and rian.ru