"Basically, it's a law that enshrines second-class citizenship," Gessen said.
During his interview Friday, Putin also addressed some of the other controversies surrounding the Sochi Olympics, namely that massive corruption was to blame for its $51 billion price tag, making it by far the most expensive Olympics ever.
"Given the scale and, let's be honest about it, given the lack of experience of construction on such a vast scale in this country, in today's Russia, of course setbacks were inevitable," he said.
Putin rejected claims that up to a third of the Olympic budget was stolen or inflated due to corruption.
"If anyone has specific information about 'signs of corruption' in regard to the implementation of the Sochi Olympics project, we ask for objective data to be given to us," he told Stephanopoulos. "So far, I do not see any serious signs of corruption at this time."
Just under three weeks before the Opening Ceremony, the Olympic city still a giant construction site, but Putin said he was confident that all Olympic projects will be completed on time.
"Everything has been done. Things need to be cleaned up," he said. "All the facilities are ready."
He said he hopes foreigners attending the Games, and those watching on television, will see a new Russia.
"Take an unbiased, fresh look at it," he said. "I'm positive that it will produce, should produce a positive, good result and will facilitate Russia's relationship-building with its partners around the world."
Putin told Stephanopoulos that Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who received asylum in Russia, is free to attend the Sochi Olympics if he wants to.
"Everybody is invited," he said. "Mr. Snowden is subject to the treatment of provisional asylum here in Russia. He has a right to travel freely across the country, he has no special limitation, he can just buy a ticket and come here."
Asked whether Snowden could stay as long as he wants, Putin replied: "Yes, sure, definitely."
Putin told Stephanopoulos that he hoped the Olympics would help bridge the divide between the United States and Russia.
"Between major countries there certainly always are some common ground and points of tension," he said.
"With respect to athletes I'd recommend and advise them not to think about the political differences," Putin said, adding with a smile: "Politics should not interfere with sports. And sports should impact politics."
The Asssociated Press contributed to this story.