Entries in St. Petersburg (2)


Madonna May Be Charged Under St. Petersburg Anti-Gay Law

Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- Pop singer Madonna has ignited controversy on both sides of a new anti-gay law in St Petersburg, Russia.

The Material Girl said in a Facebook posting this week that she plans to speak out against the law during an Aug. 9 concert in the city.

“I will come to St. Petersburg to speak up for the gay community, to support the gay community and to give strength and inspiration to anyone who is or feels oppressed,” Madonna wrote on Wednesday.

“I don’t run away from adversity. I will speak during my show about this ridiculous atrocity,” she added.

The law, which took effect March 11, in part prohibits “the propaganda of homosexuality and pedophilia among minors.”

Gay rights activists say it would criminalize even reading, writing or speaking about gay, lesbian, or transgender people. Violations can carry hefty fines, ranging from about $170 for individuals up to $16,700 or organizations and businesses.

The bill’s author, city assemblyman Vitaly Milanov, says he wants Madonna charged under the new law if she speaks out against it during her concert. He said he was willing to attend the show “to control its moral content.”

“I’m ready to personally suffer a couple of hours of her concert,” he told the Russian Interfax news agency.

Madonna spoke out after an op-ed by Masha Gessen, a Moscow-based Russian-American journalist, was published in the New York Times on Monday calling on Madonna to cancel the show and urging tourists and businesses to boycott the city.

For some gay rights advocates her pledge to use the venue to denounce the new law was not enough. A group of Russian gay rights advocates plans to picket the concert, saying Madonna is cashing in on their struggle and urging her to cancel the show.

“The law will stay in force, Madonna will leave and the Russian LGBT-community will be humiliated even more,” Nikolai Aleksev, the head of the LGBT advocacy group Gay Russia, wrote on his blog.

Homosexuality was banned in the Soviet Union and was only decriminalized in 1993, though it was still declared a mental disorder until 1999. It remains highly taboo in Russia. Laws similar to the St Petersburg legislation are now being considered in other regions and the speaker of the Russian Parliament, the Duma, has promised to weigh endorsing it at a national level.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Thousands Tell Putin: This Isn’t Over Yet

Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- Thousands of Russians protested in Moscow and St. Petersburg again today, determined to send a message to President-elect Vladimir Putin: This isn’t over yet.

In Moscow, the rally was smaller than previous demonstrations, but the crowd was no less vocal. Chants of “Russia without Putin” and “Putin is a thief” rang out loudly and often. Hundreds of riot police stood by, but only a few people were arrested as they tried to stage another protest after the permitted demonstration ended. Others were arrested in St Petersburg as well.

Today was seen as a critical juncture for the opposition movement as it faced questions about how to sustain itself after Putin won Sunday’s election, as well as how to overcome internal divisions. Organizers have not announced a date for the next rally.

Many protest leaders were quick to admit that the current strategy of demonstrations has probably come to a close. Instead, some are proposing channeling the anger and energy that has driven tens of thousands to the street into other areas where they can try to affect change on local and legislative levels.

Alena Popova, a protest leader whose arm was broken as she was arrested after last Monday’s protest, said the key will be remaining united.

“I believe that we can change the situation. I believe that we should be here, because we should gather everybody in one place not just separately,” she said.

That may be difficult to do as the opposition movement has remained deeply fractured. Liberals have shared the stage with hardcore nationalists. Most speakers don’t agree on anything other than their opposition to Putin.

Many in the crowd recognized that the protest movement has reached a turning point, but vowed to continue the effort.

“We will came again because we want the change in our country,” said 20 year-old Ilya Vailiev.

Natalya Lebedev, a 42 year-old mother of four, said today was her first time protesting. She said she felt compelled to send a message to Putin.

“I want to show it is not finished that we are going to show that we will not support corruption government,” she said.

Like many others, she felt confident that, while turnout is dwindling, the protest movement itself was not fading.

“I am sure  that it will continue, may be it will be other format but it is not finished,” she said.

Vera Kichanova, a 21-year-old student and opposition member who was surprised when she won a seat in her local council on Sunday, says she plans to fight corruption from the inside and try to unwind the bureaucratic tangle that is a common complaint in Russia. She also vowed to remain an active participant in the protests.

“Now it is not time to ask the permission from the authorities,” she said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio