Russian Conductor Hits Back at Criticism Over ‘Anti-Gay’ Law

WASHINGTON, November 8 (RIA Novosti) – Russian conductor Valery Gergiev, whose recent performances in London and New York have been the target of protests from gay rights activists, has denied that he supports Russia’s controversial new “anti-gay laws.”

“It is wrong to suggest that I have ever supported anti-gay legislation, and in all my work I have upheld equal rights for all people,” Gergiev said in a statement posted on his official Facebook page Wednesday.

“I am an artist and have for over three decades worked with tens of thousands of people in dozens of countries from all walks of life, and many of them are indeed my friends,” Gergiev added.

Gergiev, the artistic and general director of St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theater, had until now resisted pressure to comment on Russia’s controversial law banning the promotion of “non-traditional” sexual relationships among minors.

But his apparent change of heart may not have appeased his critics. Andrew Miller, a member of the rights group Queer Nation, which was involved in New York protests against the Russian legislation, told The New York Times on Wednesday that:

“The issue is not whether Valery Gergiev has gay friends or co-workers, but rather that he has been an ardent supporter of Vladimir Putin, for whom he campaigned.”

Miller added that unless Gergiev explicitly denounced “Putin’s anti-LGBT laws,” he would be “merely Putin’s collaborator.”

Gergiev, in a brief interview with RIA Novosti last month, said he had “nothing to apologize for.”

Meanwhile, the Guardian has reported that a planned protest before a Gergiev performance in London on Thursday would also go ahead, with gay rights activist Peter Tatchell telling the paper that the conductor’s Facebook statement resembled “PR spin and a damage-limitation exercise.”

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