Russian President Vladimir Putin has denounced hatred directed towards gays and lesbians.
“We should not create any xenophobia in society on any principle against anyone whatsoever, including against people of non-traditional sexual orientation,” Putin said.
Putin’s comment came in the wake of two high-profile attacks on LGBT organizations in Russia. On Sunday, gunmen fired on one of Moscow’s best-known gay clubs, Central Station. And on November 3, two men entered a social event at an HIV organization in St. Petersburg and attacked participants with a pneumatic gun and baseball bats.
Russian state television has also been stirring up anti-gay sentiment, broadcasting a “special report” last week warning of a “homosexualist invasion” masterminded by western activists.
Putin borrowed the term “non-traditional sexual orientation” from the “homosexual propaganda” ban passed earlier this year, which technically prohibits the “promotion of non-traditional sexual relationships to minors.”
Putin defended the law in his remarks to party leaders not represented in the Russian Duma, saying, “You know how much criticism I’ve heard said about me, but everything that we’ve done on the governmental and legal level was all to do with limiting promoting it to minors,” Putin added.
Anastasia Smirnova, spokeswoman for a coalition of Russian LGBT rights organizations, told BuzzFeed, “We welcome the statement by President Putin that xenophobia towards LGBT people is unacceptable.”
But, she added, “We hope that [the] President will accompany these words by action and leadership in ensuring that cases of discrimination and violence against LGBT people are duly prosecuted and that the assailants bear penalty proportionate to the committed crimes. There have been several blatant attacks on LGBT people in the past month … and we expect that this and similar incidents are addressed properly by the investigators and courts. We also hope that President ensures that his stance is followed by local authorities, who will take responsibility for the safety and security of the future demonstrations in support of LGBT equality.”
Max Seddon contributed reporting.