Russia's deputy prime minister on Thursday asked gay visitors and athletes coming to Sochi for the Winter Olympics to “leave the kids alone.”

Dmitry Kozak made his plea during a press conference, the AP reported.

Kozak insisted that Russia does not discriminate based on sexual orientation.

The run-up to Friday's opening of the Winter Olympics has been marred by Russia's “gay propaganda” law, which prohibits the promotion of gay rights in public spaces. Russian authorities have said the law is necessary to protect children.

Gay rights groups have condemned the law, saying it has contributed to increasing anti-gay rhetoric in Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin last month made a similar statement, saying that gays must “leave the children at peace.”

(Related: Vladimir Putin: Gays can feel “at ease” at Sochi, but must “leave children in peace.”)