Sir Ian McKellen shows his solidarity with LGBT Russians

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Sir Ian McKellen has become the latest celebrity to show his support for LGBT Russians who are facing increasing persecution from the state.

The actor and gay rights campaigner was photographed with a pro-Russian LGBT rights flyer by the blogger Michael Petrelis. The photograph was taken following a performance of Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land on New York’s Broadway that Sir Ian is currently appearing in with the Star Trek star Sir Patrick Stewart.

Mr Petrelis said: “He and I spoke briefly about the plight of LGBT citizens of Russia, and Sir Ian expressed his solidarity with them and deplored the escalating violence against our community over there.”

President Vladimir Putin signed the law in June banning the promotion of “non-traditional relationships” toward minors, a move that has been criticised as part of a broader crackdown on Russia’s gay community.

The law has so far sparked controversy among LGBT activists, with some calling for a boycott of the 2014 Games. Others have also called to boycott Russian vodka as a form of protest.

Last month, the International Olympics Committee said in a statement that it had received reassurance from the Russian government that athletes and spectators will be exempt from the country’s anti-gay laws.

But sports minister Vitaly Mutko said in a recent interview:”No one is banning a sportsman with a non-traditional sexual orientation from going to Sochi. But if he goes out onto the street and starts to make propaganda, then of course he will be brought to responsibility.”

Mr Mutko also said that sportsmen should respect the laws of the country.

Gay Olympic diving champion Matthew Mitcham said this weekend: “It’s really sad, the way they are persecuting people in Russia is quite horrific.”

Today Lady Gaga tweeted: “Sending bravery to LGBTs in Russia. The rise in government abuse is archaic. Hosing teenagers with pepper spray? Beatings? Mother Russia?”

She added: “The Russian Government is criminal. Oppression will be met with revolution. Russian LGBTs you are not alone. We will fight for your freedom.”

“Why didn’t you arrest me when you had the chance, Russia? Because you didn’t want answer to the world?”