By Daniel Reynolds
Originally published on Advocate.com September 03 2013 1:15 PM ET
President Barack Obama is planning to meet with Russian human rights groups, including LGBT activists, reports BuzzFeed.
The meeting will occur during the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel this Thursday. Confirmed attendees include leading human rights activists Lyudmila Alexeyeva and Lev Ponomarev; Pavel Chikov, the chair of Agora, a legal advocacy organization; and representatives of Coming Out, an LGBT nonprofit based in St. Petersburg.
This will be the first time the president will speak with LGBT organizations in Russia, which has caused a storm of controversy with the passage of antigay legislation, a ban on so-called homosexual propaganda.
Under the law, both foreigners and Russian citizens can be arrested for disseminating or promoting homosexuality or LGBT rights. LGBT foreigners could also be deported, and that includes athletes of the upcoming Olympic games.
Last month Obama canceled a one-on-one meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin scheduled during the G-20 summit due to the country's record on human rights, among other conflicts that have arisen, such as granting asylum to National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.
The meeting was canceled due to a "lack of progress on issues like missile defense, arms control, trade and commercial relations, global security issues, and human rights and civil society," White House press secretary Jay Carney said, according to the Washington Blade.
Tensions between the nations have heightened even further with the recent debate over the international response to the developments in Syria, where there civilian casualties and injuries from a chemical attack August 21, allegedly perpetrated by the government.
Russia has dismissed evidence presented by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and a recent U.S. intelligence report, which was called “absolutely unconvincing” by the country’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, in a statement released Monday. Russia has threatened to block any resolution from the U.N. on the issue.
Earlier this summer, Obama lambasted Russia's treatment of its LGBT citizens on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.
"I've been very clear that when it comes to universal rights, when it comes to people's basic freedoms, that whether you're discriminating on the basis of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation, you are violating the basic morality that I think should transcend every country," Obama said. "I have no patience for countries that try to treat gays or lesbians or transgender persons in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them."