- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 19, 2014

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Sunday that millions of Russians love Elton John “despite his orientation,” as he continues to defend the country’s gay propaganda laws ahead of the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.

“People have different sexual orientation. We will welcome all athletes and all guests of the Olympics,” Mr. Putin told reporters, the Agence France Presse reported. “People with non-traditional sexual orientation cannot feel like they are second-rate because they are in no way discriminated against: not professionally, not career-wise, not when it comes to recognition by society.”

Mr. Putin cited the pop icon’s popularity among Russians as an example the country doesn’t discriminate against gays.

Mr. John is “an outstanding person (and) outstanding musician,” he said. “Millions of our people sincerely love him despite his orientation.”

The singer has a long history of performances in Russia, ignoring calls to boycott the country in light of its recent laws banning the dissemination of “gay propaganda” to minors, AFP reported.

Mr. Putin also downplayed planned no-shows at the Olympics by President Obama and French President Francois Hollande.

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