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Vladimir Putin says gays and lesbians are welcome at the Olympics

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Putin specifically welcomes people of any 'sexual orientation' to visit Sochi for the Winter Olympics

Oleg Nikishin

Russian President Vladimir Putin offered his clearest support to date for LGBT athletes and fans headed to Sochi for the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympics. From The Advocate:

"We will do everything to make sure that athletes, fans, and guests feel comfortable at the Olympic Games regardless of their ethnicity, race, or sexual orientation," Putin said at a meeting of Russian winter sports ministers, according to Radio Free Europe. "On my own and on [behalf of Russian sports ministers], I have assured Mr. [Bach] that we will do our best, and our athletes and fans will do their best too, so that both participants and guests feel themselves comfortable at Sochi Olympics regardless of their ethnicity, race, or sexual orientation. I would like to underline that."

What's most important here is that he included sexual orientation specifically not once, but twice. It's one thing to talk about general forms of discrimination and safety, but to specifically assure people of any sexual orientation that they will be made to "feel comfortable" is incredibly assuring.

It's clear that the international push has had some effect. The anti-gay Russian laws aren't going anywhere anytime soon, but his statement is a baby step in the right direction.