By Julie Bolcer
Originally published on Advocate.com October 15 2012 11:15 AM ET
An antigay group in Russia wants authorities to investigate rainbow-themed milk cartons that its says promote homosexuality to children in violation of a new St. Petersburg law against gay propaganda.
Anatoly Artukh from the People's Council objects to the label of the Vesyoly Molochnik milk, which features a milkman and a cow under a bright rainbow. The brand is owed by Pepsi Co, which Artukh blamed for the label in an interview with ABC News of Australia.
"A rainbow appeared on the cartons, a world-renowned symbol of the gay movement," he said. "That immediately put me on alert."
"I have no doubts about Pepsi Cola," Artukh added. "This is a company renowned for actively and aggressively financing and promoting homosexuality."
Pepsi Co. did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Advocate.
LGBT advocates said the charges reflect the chilling atmosphere since the governor of St. Petersburg signed the law this past March. The measure imposes fines up to 5,000 rubles ($160) for individuals, 50,000 rubles ($1,600) for government officials and 500,000 rubles ($16,000) for businesses.
"People are afraid,” said Polina Savchenko, director of Coming Out, and advocacy group. “And this is actually the bottom line of what the effect, the grave effect of this law is," she said.
The People’s Council is one of the rightwing groups suing Madonna for $10 million after she spoke out against the law during a concert in St. Petersburg this summer. The plaintiffs claim the pop star inflicted “moral damage.”
Human rights campaigners and Western governments including the United States have denounced the law. Similar laws have already passed in three other Russian regions, and the measure has inspired efforts to pass a law on the national level in Russia.