During his official visit to Germany and Holland on Monday, Vladimir Putin faced hundreds of protesters, first by FEMEN in Hanover, then by the gay community in Amsterdam. In Amsterdam, protesters lowered rainbow flags around the city to half- mast and gathered at the Amsterdam arm of the Hermitage museum and Amnesty International blanketed the area with satirical signs and police tape proclaiming it a "human rights free zone". What happened is that, even though Russia decriminalized homosexuality in 1993, homophobia remains strong and authorities continue to encourage repressive anti-gay policies. The newest draft, which still needs a second reading and to be signed by Putin to become law, sais that gay public events and the dissemination of information about the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community to minors should be punishable by fines of up to 500,000 roubles (over 12,000 euros). Amsterdam deputy mayor Andree van Es said the city appreciates the importance of trade and was glad to host Putin, but it was sympathetic to the protesters."We see Russia as an important trading partner, but Amsterdam has an identity of what I call hyper-diversity... and we very much want to be able to express that, even to our important economic partners," she said. I will conclude by quoting alderman Carolien Gehrels in an interview to AT5 News: “What ever Putin’s reaction would be, it sends a very good message within the Dutch community for all gays that live and work her, and also in that way we show our solidarity with the Russians and their wish for diversity."
*Photo: Protest by FEMEN in Hanover where Vladmir Putin was visiting an industrial fair.