Russian president Vladimir Putin issued a statement that's being received as tepid support for Russia's embattled LGBT population, as he tacitly condemned what he called "xenophobia" against people of "nontraditional sexual orientation" in a meeting with local politicians Wednesday.
"We should not create any xenophobia in society on any principle against anyone whatsoever, including against people of nontraditional sexual orientation,” Putin said, according to BuzzFeed's translation of the story first reported on Kremlin-backed news outlet Ria Novosti.
Speaking with leaders of political parties not represented in the State Duma, Russia's parliament, Putin defended the law he signed in June that outlaws "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations" in any venue accessible to minors. Since that nationwide ban on "gay propaganda" took effect, LGBT Russians have been harassed, kidnapped, beaten, raped, and arrested for gathering in public, protesting the law, waving rainbow flags, or speaking out against homophobia.
Earlier this month, shots were fired at Moscow's best-known gay nightclub, and two unidentified assailants raided a community meeting at an HIV and STD information clinic in St. Petersburg, injuring two attendees with a baseball bat and pneumatic gun.
In defense of the law, Putin reiterated a sentiment he's previously expressed, arguing that the law protects children from seeing or hearing things that Putin and the right-wing theocrats in the Duma find objectionable.
"You know how much criticism I’ve heard said about me, but everything that we’ve done on the governmental and legal level was all to do with limiting promoting it to minors," Putin explained, according to BuzzFeed's translation.