Nightly News   |  January 17, 2014

Putin to Gays: ‘Leave the Children in Peace’

Vladimir Putin, who has never been known for his tact, said on Friday gay athletes won’t be harassed, but added there are limits to Russia’s tolerance.

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>>> russian president vladimir putin is in sochi tonight, kicking up controversy again just three weeks before the opening ceremony of the winter olympic games . he was there to see the venues, talk about security, but it's what he said about gay people that may have just made the situation a bit worse. our chief foreign correspondent, richard engel is in sochi for us this evening. good evening.

>> reporter: good evening, brian. vladimir putin has never been known for his tact. today he said gays coming to sochi won't be harassed, but there are limits, he said, to russia 's tolerance. even as workers dig and add finishing touches to sochi , vladimir putin moved to defuse the controversy over a russian law banning so-called gay propaganda, promoting homosexuality to minors. we aren't banning anything, he said, while meeting olympic volunteers. we aren't rounding up anyone. we have no criminal punishment for such relations. everyone should feel at ease, he added, but, please, leave the children in peace. and that may have made the controversy even worse . but these are putin 's games, and putin 's rules in his city. sochi isn't the most natural place to host the winter olympics . there was no infrastructure here. it isn't very cold. more palm trees than snow. it's not very far from the most dangerous part of russia . but putin likes sochi . it would be like an american president hosting the olympics in crawford,martha's vineyard, or kennebunkport. putin wants his favorite resort to be safe. today on state tv he told russians to show no fear or weakness, because it only 'em boldens terrorists. 40,000 cops and soldiers have been called in to secure sochi . security is so tight there are cartoons about it in moscow newspapers. one shows putin using the olympic rings as brass knuckles .

>> worried about security, worried about possible terrorist attacks . they worry about it not being completed. we go down to sochi quite regularly to see that it is on schedule. they're pushing it at all costs.

>> reporter: the games are coming today. putin said they'll be safe and open, by russia 's standards.

>> richard engel in sochi in russia for us tonight. thanks.