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PM says Russian gays haven’t complained about rights violations

'I believe this problem is partially non-existent': Dmitry Medvedev

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev says there have been no complaints about rights violations from gay Russians. Credit: wikipedia.org

In an interviw with CNN, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said he hasn't heard of any complaints from gay people in the country that their rights have been violated.

Veteran journalist Christiane Amanpour interviewed Medvedev about the high level of security for the Sochi Winter Games, the potential for a terrorist attack, the Syrian conflict and the hopes he has for the peace conference, as well as the gay propaganda legislation.

Asked about gay Russians' fears in the face of the anti-gay law, in effect since June, Medvedev said it hasn't been applied. 

"In this country, the relations themselves are not forbidden at all legally. So I believe that this has nothing in common with the real situation in our country — the comments, I mean. And the rights of gays as well," he said, addng that he hasn't seen evidence online that Russian sexual minorities have complained about rights violations.

He continues, "We have the full freedom of communication. People could express their opinion in the internet as they like about authorities, prime minister, president, and I am an active surfer. And I have never met a single application of the so-called non-traditional sexual minorities communities, I mean, Russian, to the authorities, saying that their rights have been violated. But the situation caused some disturbance in other countries. So I believe that this problem is partially non-existent. If we see that the rights of this or that category of our population are violated, doesn't matter which category it is, of course we will have amendments to our laws. But so far, there is no problem about those matters that you speak about, no problem at all."

Medvedev's comments are similar in tenor to one that Russian President Vladimir Putin has been repeating in the lead-up to the Games. In recent remarks, Putin said that homosexuality is not a crime in the country and that gay people should feel "at ease" at the Sochi Winter Olympics, but they should "leave children in peace, please." 

In an interview with the BBC, he again denied that there is persecution based on sexual orientation in Russia, adding that he knows several people who are gay.

Just prior to Putin's latest comments, Russian security guards detained a protester who unfurled and briefly waved a rainbow flag as the Olympic torch relay made its way through Voronezh, a city to the north of Sochi, where the Games are set to begin in February.

In December, Russian State Duma deputy Maria Maksakova said the country's law banning promotion of "nontraditional sexual relations" among minors is doing great damage to the country's reputation, has led to the growth of hate crimes and is having a negative impact on the livelihoods of artists, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reports.

Earlier this month, the ex-manager of popular Moscow gay club Central Station, which has come under attack on a number of occasions, told The Washington Blade that he intends to seek asylum in the United States because he fears for his life. He arrived in Washington, DC, in December.

Following its report about shots fired during a Nov 16 attack on Central Station, Queer Russia reported that the club was subject to another attack Nov 23, with the release of an unspecified "harmful gas" on the premises when approximately 500 people were inside.

In a September 2013 interview with The Huffington Post, Moscow-born journalist and activist Masha Gessen said that despite her initial hopes, outside condemnation of Russia's anti-gay policies is not changing anything inside the country and the time had come for LGBT people to seek asylum abroad.

In November, St Petersburg's Side by Side LGBT Film Festival was interrupted by a number of bomb threats. Before that, the gay.ru news site managed to avoid being shut down and paying a fine after complaints were made to media watchdogs that it was flouting Russia's "gay propaganda" law. But the site's administration was cleared of wrongdoing as the news portal indicates that it is for adults only.

A Russian journalist was also arrested for publishing a piece featuring a former teacher, who was quoted as saying that his life is "proof" that "being gay is normal."