Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin says there are “no prohibitions” against gay men and lesbians serving in the Russian military.

The country's 57-year-year-old former president made his remarks on CNN's Larry King Live.

When asked by King if gays could serve openly in the Russian military, Putin answered “there are no prohibitions.”

But before answering the question, the Russian leader emphasized that the government had a greater responsibility of protecting heterosexual couples because they produce children.

“One gender marriages will not give you offspring, therefore we are very patient to the sexual minorities, but still we believe that the state should support the processes having to do with the birth rate, mother and child care, infancy, and take care of the health of those people.”

“In the Soviet Union, that was about criminal responsibility for same gender sex,” he added. “No there are no prohibitions or bans on that score.” (The video is embedded in the right panel of this page.)

The Russian military ended its ban on gay service in 2003.

Anti-gay sentiment in Russia, however, remains widespread. A 2005 survey found that only 14 percent of the population approves of gay marriage. Gay pride parades in the nation's capital, Moscow, have been banned by the government, and pro-gay demonstrations are quickly stamped out by the police.