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    Russia defends anti-gay law in letter to IOC

    LONDON — The Russian government assured the International Olympic Committee on Thursday it will not discriminate against homosexuals during the Sochi Olympics, while defending the law against gay ‘‘propaganda’’ that has provoked an international backlash.

    The IOC received a letter from Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak giving reassurances the host country will comply fully with the Olympic Charter’s provision against discrimination of any kind.

    ‘‘The Russian Federation guarantees the fulfillment of its obligations before the International Olympic Committee in its entirety,’’ Kozak said.


    However, Kozak did not back down on the issue of the new law, which penalizes anyone who distributes information aimed at persuading minors that ‘‘nontraditional’’ relationships are normal or attractive.

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    The law applies equally to everyone and ‘‘cannot be regarded as discrimination based on sexual orientation,’’ Kozak said.

    The letter still leaves open the question of what would happen to Olympic athletes or fans if they make statements or gestures that could be considered propaganda.

    The law has provoked harsh international criticism ahead of the Feb. 7-23 Winter Olympics in the Russian resort of Sochi. Some activists have called for a boycott of the games, though President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron have ruled that out.

    Kozak’s letter came after IOC President Jacques Rogge asked the Russians for further clarifications on the law and how it could impact on the Sochi Games.


    ‘‘We have today received strong written reassurances from the Russian government that everyone will be welcome at the games in Sochi regardless of their sexual orientation,’’ Rogge said in a statement.

    The letter was addressed to Jean Claude-Killy, who heads the coordination commission for the Sochi Games.

    It’s still not clear if an athlete or spectator could be prosecuted for wearing a badge or rainbow pin or waving a small flag in solidarity with gay rights. Political gestures of any kind are also prohibited by the IOC.

    In his letter, Kozak said the legislation does not impose any restrictions on sexual orientation, and stressed the Russian constitution prohibits discrimination against anyone based on sex, race or religion.