June 30, 2013 at 11:45 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Putin signs ‘anti-gay propaganda’ bill into law

Nikolai Alekseev, gay news, Washington Blade, Russia

Nikolai Alekseev in 2012 holds a sign in St. Petersburg that reads “homosexuality is not a perversion. Perersion is grass hockey and ice ballet.” He was fined 5,000 rubles ($154) for violating the city’s ban on gay propaganda to minors. (Photo courtesy of GayRussia.ru)

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday signed a bill into law that bans the “promotion of homosexuality” to minors.

The Associated Press reported Putin signed the measure — under which individuals will face fines of between 4,000 and 5,000 rubles ($124-$155) and government officials would face fines of between 40,000 and 50,000 rubles ($1,241-$1,551) — less than a week after Russia’s upper house of Parliament approved it.

Organizations will also face a fine of up to 1 million rubles ($31,000) or suspension of their activities for up to 90 days. Foreigners will also face up to 15 days in jail and deportation.

The Russian Duma on June 11 passed the bill in an unanimous vote.

“I was sure it would be passed,” Nikolai Alekseev of Gay Russia, an LGBT advocacy group, told the Washington Blade during an interview from Moscow after the Duma vote. “It will now be signed by the president, who is very much using this fight against homosexuals in his campaign to attract voters.”

Putin signed the bill into law against the backdrop of growing concern over anti-LGBT discrimination and violence in Russia.

Two men in Volgograd and on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia’s Far East in recent weeks have been killed during what local authorities have described as anti-gay attacks.

Police in St. Petersburg on Saturday arrested 40 LGBT advocates and a handful of the estimated 200 nationalists who challenged them during a gay rights rally. Authorities on May 24 arrested Alekseev and 29 other gay activists who tried to stage a Pride celebration outside Moscow City Hall.

The State Department, the European Union and retired tennis champion Martina Navratilova are among those who have criticized Russian lawmakers and Putin over their opposition to LGBT rights in the country.

Alekseev and a growing number of other LGBT rights advocates have also called for a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and the 2018 World Cup that will also take place in Russia.

“[They are] a very good opportunity to raise particular concerns,” Alekseev told the Blade earlier this month. “One of the ways for many countries would be to boycott these international sporting events because they take place in a country which doesn’t respect basic human rights.”

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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