Human Rights Watch: Violent homophobia on the rise in Russia

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A new report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) shows homophobic violence is on the rise in Russia.

Russia passed a law in June 2013 banning distribution of “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” among minors, which means gay people cannot express their views on LGBT rights to anyone under the age of 18.

“Many serious problems plague Russia’s rights record,” Tanya Lokshina, Russia’s programme director at HRW said on Tuesday. In the report, the New York-based group highlighted “homophobic rhetoric in state media” and a rise in anti-gay attacks.

In December, President Putin signed a decree dissolving Russia’s biggest news agency RIA Novosti, and ordering instead the creation in its place of a new media conglomerate called Rossiya Segodnya (Russia Today).

As part of the move Mr Putin named Dmitry Kiselyov as the head of Russia Today.

In April 2012, Mr Kiselyov defended the country’s crackdown on LGBT rights in a programme broadcast on Rossiya-1, Russia’s main TV channel.

He said: “I think that to fine gays for the propaganda of homosexuality among teenagers is not enough. They should be prohibited from donating blood, sperm. And their hearts—in case of a car accident—should be buried or burned as unfit for extending anyone’s life.”

Following international attention and criticism, Mr Kiselyov denied accusations of homophobia in a TV interview, saying “he has enough gay friends”.

The Russian city of Sochi is hosting the Winter Olympics next month.

President Putin has defended Russia’s anti-gay laws repeatedly in recent days.

Last Friday, President Vladimir Putin said gay people had nothing to fear in Russia as long as they leave children alone.

“One can feel calm and at ease,” he said as he spoke to Olympic volunteers in Sochi. “Just leave kids alone, please.”

On Sunday, President Putin denied accusations of homophobia, saying he has gay friends himself.