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Gays at Sochi Olympics find refuge in cabaret

 Andrei Sarkisian right who goes by stage name Miss Zhuzhgets ready backstage before performance with fellow cast member who

Andrei Sarkisian, right, who goes by the stage name of Miss Zhuzha, gets ready backstage before a performance with fellow cast member who would only give his stage name, Zaza Napoli, at the Mayak cabaret, the most reputable gay club in Sochi, Russia, hos

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Updated: February 10, 2014 11:35AM

SOCHI, Russia — It’s Saturday night at Mayak cabaret and the nightclub is packed. But gay men and women are reluctant to discuss a law Russia adopted last year that prohibits vaguely defined propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations and pedophilia.

Mayak is one of the few safe places for gays in the Olympic host city to meet. They prefer to enjoy life, closeted as it is.

About a hundred people were chatting at the bar, sitting in armchairs or dancing. Couples were sharing kisses. Everyone was waiting for the club’s specialty: a drag show.

Russian authorities insist that the law is aimed at protecting children from harmful influences. Activists, however, insist that the law is fostering homophobia in Russia.

World leaders and journalists have confronted President Vladimir Putin with questions about gay discrimination in Russia. Putin has been equating homosexuality with pedophilia even though he has assured gays that they will be welcome in Sochi, but only if they “leave the kids alone.”

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