Putin’s grab for power spells trouble for gay rights groups

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Russian president Vladimir Putin’s admission that he would stand for the post of prime minister is a worrying sign for gay rights groups in the country, human rights activists have warned.

Mr Putin is prevented from seeking a third term as president by the Russian constitution, but if he undertakes a four year period as prime minister he would again be eligible for the post in 2012.

The move, announced last Monday, is being condemned by human rights groups, who have been horrified by the attacks on free speech and gay rights in the country during Mr Putin’s time in office.

An Amnesty International spokesman told pinknews.co.uk: “Amnesty International has serious concerns about the Russian government’s treatment of LGBT rights.

“We’ve had numerous homophobic attacks in Russia, some of them fatal.

“The authorities have failed to tackle discrimination because of sexual orientation.”

Mr Putin said he would run for prime minister if two conditions were met. Firstly, his party – United Russia – must win the parliamentary elections, and secondly the new president must be “decent, capable and effective.”

Those conditions make his appearance as prime minister all but certain. United Russia stand little chance of being defeated in the next election, due to their massive popularity and monopoly of state-broadcast television.

Should he become prime minister the post of president will in all probability be reduced to a toothless decoration, with Mr Putin continuing to exercise extensive control over the country.

For the Russian gay community, such an eventuality would signal a depressing development, wiping away any chance of seeing tangible change in the country.

Moscow’s mayor, Yuri Luzhkov is closely tied to Mr Putin. He is well known for his homophobic sentiments and banned a Gay Pride march in the capital in 2006.

Amnesty’s spokesman said: “LGBT people have been subject to violent attacks while attending clubs in Moscow.

“In 2006 the Gay Pride march was banned in Moscow.

“The Russian Orthodox and Muslim leaders have publicly criticised Pride and made homophobic statements.”

An attempt to hold a Pride march in 2007 were denounced by the Mayor as “satanic”. For the second year in a row it degenerated into violent clashes with homophobic extremists.

The Amnesty spokesman added: “There have been protests where the police have refused to step in and watched while LGBT activists and journalists have been injured.”

Meanwhile, the Other Russia party has recently made chess champion Gary Kasparov is leader.

Other Russia may be a beacon of hope for the LGBT community, but its commitment to gay rights is far from certain.

By collecting together all opponents of the Putin regime under one tent, the coalition hosts some homophobic groups as well.

Nationalists, liberals, minority rights activists and communists are all included in the party.

Within its ranks one can find skinheads as well as human rights campaigners.