Despite a pending anti-gay federal law and continued bans on Pride events, President Vladimir Putin has insisted that gay people are not discriminated against in Russia.
Putin made the remarkable statement during a press conference in Amsterdam on Monday.
“In the Russian Federation – so that it is clear to everybody – there is no infringement on the rights of sexual minorities,” he said.
“These people…enjoy all the same rights and freedoms as everyone else,” Putin added.
The president’s visit to the Netherlands was met with demonstrations by around 1000 LGBT rights activists who slammed Russia for its repressive policies.
They waved colourful balloons and the rainbow flag while blowing whistles and playing loud music in Amsterdam, widely considered one of the global gay capitals.
Russian LGBT rights activist Nikolai Alekseev scoffed at Putin’s statement and described it as “hypocritical”.
He told Gay Star News: “This was for the Western public… You are banning the gay parade, you are banning public demonstrations for LGBT people, LGBT people are not able to register their unions, there is no anti-discrimination laws, there is absolutely nothing.
“[Putin] is saying he’s ready to fight for the rights of LGBT people. He’s been the president for so many years, and he has not done anything and will continue to do nothing,” said Alekseev.
In January, Russian lawmakers approved a law that would effectively bar any LGBT events or any shows of support for LGBT people or rights that might be seen by minors.
The bill must still receive a final approval from parliament before it is passed to Putin for his signature. Efforts to protest the law have been met with violence from anti-gay radicals.