Vladimir Putin has suggested that the LGBT+ community doesn’t face persecution in Russia.

There’s a long-documented history of gay men being hunted, attacked and targeted in the European country, but its President has claimed that people of any sexuality are welcome.

Opening up about the state of LGBT+ rights in Russia, Putin suggests gays should be grateful that Russia isn’t like “some Muslim countries” where they can face the death penalty.

In an interview with Oliver Stone airing on US cable network Showtime this week, he says: “There is no situation like in some Muslim countries, where homosexuals face the death penalty. We have no restrictions or harassment based on gender. Moreover, many people explicitly talk about their non-traditional sexual orientation. We maintain relations with them and many of them achieve outstanding results in their activity.

“They even get state awards and orders for their achievements.”

Putin also claims that it’s his responsibility to stop same-sex marriages taking place because they have no positive impact on the country’s birth rate.

“Because same-sex marriages will not produce any children. God has decided, and we have to care about birth rates in our country. We have to reinforce families.”

“But,” he added, “that doesn’t mean that there should be any persecutions against anyone.”

In the same interview, the politician also insists that he would never shower next to a gay man.

“Well, I prefer not to go to shower with him,” Putin says, before adding: “Why provoke him? But you know, I’m a judo master and a SAMBO master as well.”