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Putin denies 'anti-gay' campaign

President Vladimir Putin has denied gay people face discrimination in Russia, saying that a new law that has drawn protests worldwide does not infringe on their rights.

Mr Putin insisted the law bans only "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors". He argues that it is "no infringement on the rights of sexual minorities".

The law has prompted calls for boycotts of the 2014 Winter Olympics hosted by Russia in Sochi.

Mr Putin says while some European nations have allowed gay marriages, "the Europeans are dying out ... and gay marriages don't produce children".

He added that heterosexual couples should have more children to reverse a population decline, saying "let us make our own choice, as we see it for our country".

"Do you want to survive by accepting immigrants?" Mr Putin said. "Society can't absorb such a number of immigrants."

The new Russian law imposes fines of up to 5,000 roubles (£98) for individuals and one million rubles (£19,700) for organisations, plus stiffer penalties for propaganda on the web or in the media. Foreigners who violate the law are also subject to fines, plus prison sentences of up to 15 days, deportation and denial of re-entry into Russia.

The law does not outlaw gay sex or explicitly ban participation in gay pride parades or promotion of LGBT equality online. However, the definition of "propaganda" is vague and wearing a rainbow flag on the street or writing in a certain way about gay relationships on Facebook could be interpreted as propaganda.

Mr Putin made the comment at a conference of Russia experts in Valdai in north western Russia. He also made a joking reference to his friend, former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, who was convicted in June of paying for sex with a minor and pressuring public officials to cover it up.

"Berlusconi has faced a trial for living with women. They (prosecutors) wouldn't touch him if he were gay," Mr Putin said.

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