|Vladimir Putin: Photo: © RIA Novosti. Alexey Nikolsky|
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said during an interview with U.S. talk show host Larry King that gays are not banned from serving in the Russian armed forces but that the government does not support same-sex marriages.
When King asked Putin if Russian gays and lesbians are allowed to serve openly in the military, Putin said, "We have no ban. Sodomy, as it was called, was a criminal offense in the Soviet Union but under the current legislation it is not a crime."
However, Putin said that same-sex marriages do not help solve the demographic problems in the country.
"As you know, same-sex couples cannot give birth to children. Therefore, our attitude to sexual minorities is rather tolerant but we believe that the government should support childbirth, maternity and childhood and take care of [its citizens'] health," Putin said.
Homosexuality was decriminalized in Russia in 1993 and the law that sent gays and lesbians to psychiatric wards was annulled six years later but Russia is still considered a homophobic nation by the West as the country's gay community for years has unsuccessfully lobbied the government to sanction their pride parades.
In October 2010, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Russia had violated the rights of gay activists by refusing to allow them to openly protest, and ordered the government to pay a fine and damages amounting to about $40,000.