Vladimir Putin has said that gays will not be persecuted at the Sochi Winter Olympic Games as long as they leave children alone.

Talking with volunteers who will be working at the Games, Putin said gays will not be harassed and defended Russian laws, claiming that they were more liberal then certain US states that still punish homosexuality.

"We do not have a ban on non-traditional sexual relationships," he said, according to AFP. "We have a ban on the propaganda of homosexuality and paedophilia."

The Russian president went on saying that the so-called "homosexual propaganda" law defends children from homosexuality and paedophilia.

"We don't ban anything and we won't arrest anyone," he said. "Therefore you can feel calm, relaxed. But leave children alone please."

Russia's gay community has reported a rise in homophobic violence following the approval of the legislation banning "homosexual propaganda".

Nationalist gangs such as Occupy Gerontophilia and Occupy Paedophilia have been encouraged to use social media such as VKontakte to lure young gay people into a trap and humiliate them on camera - with beatings, torture and abuse.

Footage shows youths being forced to drink urine or having it poured over their heads. Other film shows young men being mocked with dildos, threatened with axes and forced to carry wooden crucifixes.