Unbelievably, they said it again: Gays can consider themselves safe at the Sochi Olympics as long as they stay away from children. At a news conference in Sochi Thursday, Dmitry Kozak, the Russian deputy prime minister overseeing the Olympics, was asked whether lesbian and gays would be under threat because of the law prohibiting “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” among minors.

First he said Russia does not discriminate. Then he said every adult has a right to his own sexual orientation. He did not leave it at that.

“Please do not touch the kids,” he said. “This is prohibited by law.”

What? He was only repeating what the boss said. In mid-January, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the same thing:  “Just leave kids alone, please,” he said.

Naturally, Putin stirred up ferocious criticism. No matter how you parsed his words, they gave offense. It sounded as if he was equating homosexuality with pedophilia, which has no basis in fact. Why repeat it? It’s hard to imagine – except in Russia you can never go wrong by quoting the leader.