Russian athletes ‘insulted’ by the idea that same-sex kiss was meant in protest against anti-gay laws

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Two female Russian athletes have expanded on their assertion that a kiss between the pair after winning gold at the Moscow World Athletics Championships, was not meant as a protest against anti-gay laws in the country, and that they are “insulted” by the suggestion.

Kseniya Ryzhova and Yulia Gushchina won gold in the 4×400 metres relay at the Championships in Moscow at the weekend, along with teammates Tatyana Firova and Antonina Krivoshapka.

Ryzhova and Gushchina then kissed each other on the lips while on the winner’s podium, which was interpreted as a protest against anti-gay laws passed in Russia in June, which have caused an international outcry as they ban the “promotion” of homosexuality.

Speaking to the Guardian on Monday, Ryzhova strongly refuted reports that the two kissed in protest against the anti-gay laws. She said: ”It was just happiness for our team.”

The 26-year-old has gone further to say that she feels their victory was damaged by the suggestion, and that they were “insulted” to read news reports linking their kiss to protests by other athletes against the laws.

Speaking to the ITAR-TASS news agency, she said: “Yesterday, I was telephoned 20 times by various publications and instead of congratulating me they decided to insult me with these questions,

“Myself and Yulia are both married and we are not having any kind of relationship,” she continued, saying they had trained together for years.

“It was a storm of emotions, and if at that moment we touched lips… I don’t know in whose fantasy this all gets thought up… This insults not just us but our trainers,” she added.

Gushchina also commented, saying she “could not understand how such a thing could come into people’s heads.”

“When Kseniya sent me the link to the photograph and the news reports I could not believe my eyes. These victories are hard to come by and we were happy. I don’t understand how everything could be tarnished in such a way.”

She said she had not known of the controversy surrounding the law. “I simply did not hear or read about it because I was totally focused on my performance at the championships.”

Swedish high jumper Emma Green-Tregaro, 28, made a show of support for Russia’s LGBT community on Thursday by painting her nails in the rainbow colours for the qualifying round of the event.

She was later told by the International Association of Athletics Federations that she may be in violation of their code, and changed her nails to red “for love”.

On Friday, Russia’s pole vault champion Yelena Isinbayeva said comments she made about Ms Green-Tregaro, whom she said was being “disrespectful to our country”, were misunderstood.

Ms Isinbayeva, an ambassador for next year’s Winter Olympics to be staged in Sochi, said: ”It’s disrespectful to our country, disrespectful to our citizens because we are Russians.

“Maybe we are different than European people and people from different lands. We have our law which everyone has to respect. When we go to different countries, we try to follow their rules. We are not trying to set our rules over there. We are just trying to be respectful.

“We consider ourselves, like normal, standard people, we just live boys with women, girls with boys… it comes from the history.”

After calls were made for her to be stripped of her ambassadorship she claimed she had been misunderstood, but did not apologise for the comments.

Also at Moscow,  US track and field star Nick Symmonds, who earlier last week dedicated a silver medal to gay and lesbian people, spoke out against Russian anti-gay laws, saying they have started the “defining civil rights movement of our time”.

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. Other laws passed in June banned the adoption of Russian children by foreign same-sex couples, and enabled the government to fine organisations as “foreign agents”, if receiving foreign funding.

Last Monday, the Russian Interior Ministry confirmed that recently introduced anti-gay legislation will remain in force during the Sochi games.

In the UK, Stephen Fry met with David Cameron and Evgeny Lebedev on Monday to discuss views on boycotting the Sochi games in protest.