Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that he can't be anti-gay because he gives gays prizes.

Putin made his remarks during a wide-ranging interview with the AP at his country residence outside Moscow.

“I assure you that I work with these people,” Putin said. “I sometimes award them with state prizes or decorations for their achievements in various fields. We have absolutely normal relations, and I don't see anything out of the ordinary here. They say that Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was a homosexual. Truth be told, we don't love him because of that, but he was a great musician, and we all love his music. So what?”

Putin has faced criticism for signing laws that prohibits gay and lesbian couples from adopting Russian-born children and the promotion of gay rights where minors might be present, effectively banning Gay Pride marches and similar demonstrations. Russian officials have said that its “gay propaganda” law would be in effect at the Winter Olympics at Sochi and that athletes or guests who violate the law will be detained.

Putin added that athletes or fans making gestures or statements in support of gay rights at the Olympics would not be punished.