The former deputy prime minister of Russia and current leader of the opposition People’s Freedom Party was in Ottawa Feb 8 to call for sanctions against the current Russian government.
While vocal about his support for Liberal MP Irwin Cotler’s initiative to punish corrupt members of the Russian government, Boris Nemtsov ducked questions about gay activism in Russia.
When asked about reports that gay activists had been turned away from recent pro-democracy protests and forbidden to speak, Nemtsov was vague.
“This is a revolution of the middle class, which is unique and explains why the Moscow protest is huge and the regional protests aren’t so big, because the middle class is concentrated in the city of Moscow,” Nemtsov says. “Second, this was a protest of Facebook people, which is very important, and Facebook is very well developed in the big cities like Moscow. That’s why protesters don’t want to have one leader, because Facebook people don’t like that.”
Citing independent public opinion research conducted during the rally, Nemtsov says that in terms of political orientation, 70 percent of the protesters have liberal democratic views and are pro-European.
“They want Russia to be like a normal, successful European country,” Nemtsov says.
Unlike much of the European Union, however, Russia is not known for its promotion of gay rights. Over the years, activists have been beaten and arrested during gay pride events, and the city of St Petersburg recently voted in support of a bill that would impose massive fines for the “promotion of homosexuality.” The bill is awaiting the signature of the city’s mayor before it can come into force.
“What is my personal feeling? Solidarity is what I feel,” Nemtsov says.