President Obama meets with human rights and LGBT activists after G20 summit
By Brody Levesque | ST. PETERSBURG, Russia -- President Barack Obama is telling gay rights activists and other Russian civil leaders that they are strengthening their country.
The president met with the nine advocacy leaders Friday, including two representing LGBT equality rights groups, for a little more than an hour Friday evening at the Crown Plaza Hotel, near the St. Petersburg airport along with the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, and U.S. ambassador to Russia, Mike McFaul.
Obama told those in attendance;
"I got my start as a community organizer, somebody who was working in what would be called an NGO in the international community. I got elected president by engaging people at a grass roots level."
The president also praised the activists for their combined accomplishments telling the group that that they all “contribute in one way or another to continue to strengthen Russian society and (are) helping to make progress on behalf of all people.”
"I'm very proud of their work... Part of good government is making sure we're creating a space for civil society," he said.
Reporters were briefly allowed in for a photo op but no other details have yet emerged.
In attendance were Igor Kochetkov, Director of the Russian LGBT Network, Olga Lenkova, chief spokesperson for the St. Petersburg LGBT organization Coming Out, Pavel Chikov Chairperson of the Agora Association, Yana Yakovleva, Founder, Business Solidarity; Yelena Milashina, an investigative journalist, Novaya Gazeta; Yevgenia Chirikova, Director, Movement to Defend Khimki Forest; Ivan Pavlov, Head, Institute for the Freedom of Information; Boris Pustyntsev, Head, Citizens Watch; and Dmitry Makarov, Member of the Coordinating Council of the International Youth Human Rights Movement
After meeting with the activists for more than an hour, The president traveled across the airport property to embark on Air Force One to return to the United States.