Exclusive: Brian Paddick: ‘Putin can ignore us unless we do things that hurt the Russian economy’

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Speaking exclusively to PinkNews.co.uk, Brian Paddick suggests hurting Russia’s economy is the only way of taking effective action against the country’s homophobic censorship laws.

The gay Liberal Democrat former London mayoral candidate and retired Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner told PinkNews.co.uk at Saturday’s Whitehall demonstration that he was against a boycott of the 2014 Russian Winter Olympics – but that trade needed to become a powerful campaigning tool.

Along with the Kaleidoscope Trust, Mr Paddick believes the situation in Russia will only get worse and said: “The difficulty is, and the experience of [the UK] shows, if you have discriminatory laws it leads to a discriminatory culture. The fact that Putin has passed these laws encourages the homophobes in the Russian community and it also will encourage the police to ignore homophobic hate crime.”

Asked if Winter Olympic corporate sponsors such as Visa, Coco Cola and McDonalds should be prepared to raise Russia’s anti-gay laws as a bone of contention, Mr Paddick said: “Because they sponsor they do politics and it is absolutely no excuse for them to say ‘it’s not our fight’ – if the sponsors decide to continue without any comment at all then the gay community needs to take action against those sponsors.”

With some urging for a boycott of the Games and also Russian vodka as well, Mr Paddick believes it’s important that international LGBT campaigners project a consistent message.

Calls for a boycott of Russian vodka have generated much debate. Stolichnaya, one of the most popular vodka brands in the United States, defended its gay-friendly credentials in an open letter published last month by its chief executive.

Val Mendeleev said he was upset by the “recent dreadful actions taken by the Russian Government limiting the rights of the LGBT community.”

Stolichnaya is also one of the largest advertisers in the US LGBT media market.

“So it’s very unfortunate that you have a pro-gay company in a country that is taking action against gay people,” Mr Paddick said to PinkNews.co.uk, before adding: “Whatever it takes to make an effective protest that’s what we have to do unfortunately.”

Speaking exclusively to PinkNews.co.uk at Saturday’s Whitehall demonstration, broadcaster and writer Stephen Fry suggested that all athletes attending February’s Winter Olympics in Sochi should show solidarity with Russia’s LGBT community by performing a symbol on the medals podium.

Citing Fry’s recent letter to Prime Minister David Cameron, Mr Paddick said to PinkNews.co.uk: “I mean it’s a very compelling argument that Stephen Fry puts forward and the parallels with Hitler’s Germany are frightening and his arguments are compelling – but if the activists in Russia say that it’s more effective to have the eyes of the world on Russia and on protests around the Games then perhaps that is a better way to go.”

Mr Paddick added: “What we need to do is get a consensus and we all need to line up behind whatever consensus that is because that is the most effective and powerful way to get our message across. If the Russians see that there is fragmentation with some pro-boycott, some against-boycott they will exploit that division and we cannot allow that to happen.”

“I think we have to listen very carefully to the LGBT activists in Russia, they are the ones who know what the situation is [like] there, and we need to follow what they recommend.”