Russian President Vladimir Putin took a swipe at critics of his country's widely-criticized law against LGBT "propaganda" while defending friend and former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Thursday, saying Berlusconi was only convicted of sex with a minor because he is heterosexual.

"Berlusconi is on trial now because he lives with women," the Wall Street Journal quoted Putin as saying. "If he were a homosexual, they wouldn't have laid a finger on him."

Berlusconi was convicted in June 2013 of paying to having sex with an underage girl and then ordering officials to cover it up. He is currently appealing the verdict. According to Reuters, he and Putin are good friends, with Putin praising his political ability despite allegedly being criticized at home for "his special attitude to the beautiful sex."

The Associated Press also quoted Putin as saying his country's anti-LGBT law was only aimed at "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations among minors," while blaming marriage equality for a declining population across Europe.

"The Europeans are dying out, and gay marriages don't produce children," Putin was quoted as saying.

Watch video of Putin's remarks about Berlusconi, posted on YouTube on Thursday by "Italy News," below.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]