President Obama To Meet With Russian Human Rights & LGBT Activists at G20 Summit
|Dmitry Isakov via VK.com|
By Brody Levesque | WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama will meet with Human Rights and LGBTQ Equality Activists this Thursday in St. Petersburg, Russia, during the G20 conference a White House source confirmed Monday.
Participants include veteran human rights activists Lev Ponomarev and Lyudmila Alexeyeva along with LGBT activists Pavel Chikov and Igor Kochetkov.
It is typical for U. S. officials to meet with civil society members or heads of non-governmental organizations on visits to Russia, a point of contention with the Russian government, this is the first time it is believed that a U. S. President's meeting itinerary will include LGBT groups.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had included local LGBT groups in her meeting when she was in St. Petersburg in 2012, but the Obama meetings will be more at the national level, the official said.
The meeting comes after a summer of tense relations between the two superpowers coupled with mounting international outrage and criticism of the "anti-gay propaganda law" signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in June, which has erupted into protests over the impending 2014 Winter Olympic Games to be held in Sochi, Russia next February.
President Obama had cancelled a bilateral summit with his Russian counterpart that had been scheduled for the G20 Summit after Russian President Vladimir Putin granted one year political asylum for NSA whistle blower Edward Snowden whom the U. S. has charged with National Security Law(s) violations.
Obama had also criticised the anti-gay propaganda law during an appearance last month on the Tonight show telling host Jay Leno, " “no patience for countries that try to treat gays or lesbians or transgender persons in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them.”
Russian officials have publicly stated that the law will remain in effect during the Olympics, but International Olympic Committee officials say they are satisfied with assurances they have received from Russian leaders.
As the U.S. president heads to the G20 this week, Dmitry Isakov, 24, an LGBT activist from the central Russian city of Kazan, is poised to become the first Russian activist convicted under Russia’s new anti-gay law.
Isakov was arrested for his protest on July 30, in the city's center holding a sign that read “Being gay and loving gays is normal. Beating gays and killing gays is a crime!”
According to Russian officals, Isakov, is not the first person charged under the law.
State run media outlet RIA Novosti told LGBTQ Nation that Isakov has been terminated from his job at the local Kazan branch of Russian banking giant Sberbank, although the bank denied it was over his arrest.
He faces a fine of up to 5,000 rubles ($150 USD) if convicted.