Russia reacts to overseas “interference” on St Petersburg “gay propaganda” law

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A senior official in the Russian government has said he is “perplexed” by the US statement condemning a proposed law which could severely hinder freedom of expression for LGBT people in St Petersburg.

Konstantin Dolgov, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law, said the US State Department’s comments were “incorrect”.

Interfax reports him saying: “We are perplexed by the American side’s attempts to interfere in the legislative process in Russia, especially publicly.

“We consider these attempts inappropriate and inconsistent with the practice of interstate relations.”

Dolgov goes on to say the Russian people are protected from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and that the proposed law is designed to protect children.

The US issued a statement last week saying: “We are deeply concerned by proposed local legislation in Russia that would severely restrict freedoms of expression and assembly for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals, and indeed all Russians.

“We have called on Russian officials to safeguard these freedoms, and to foster an environment which promotes respect for the rights of all citizens. The United States places great importance on combating discrimination against the LGBT community and all minority groups.”

The UK’s Foreign Office has described the plans by lawmakers in St Petersburg to implement the law against “gay propaganda” as “wrong” and “mistaken”.

The law, which has been introduced by the ruling United Russia Party, would see people and organisations fined for the so-called “promotion” of homosexuality.

It has already passed one initial reading and equates “lesbianism, bisexualism and transgenderism” with “paedophilia”.

Fines range from 1,000 roubles (£20) for an individual to 50,000 (£1,000) for a business.

The Assembly is scheduled to hold a second reading of the bill today.

Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said: “This bill is a blatant attack on freedom of expression and a thinly disguised attempt to silence Russia’s LGBT community.

“The effort to have this law adopted in St. Petersburg, known as Russia’s northern capital, is a test case for those who want to entrench discrimination against the LGBT community throughout the country.

“The attempt to conflate pedophilia, which is a crime, with homosexuality is a disgrace and should be exposed for the insidious lie it is.

“The bill’s sponsors say they want to protect children, but the bill is really about making the LGBT community invisible.”