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Not surprisingly, Vitaly Milonov, the author of the St. Petersburg, Russia law banning gay propaganda, on which the federal law is based, dislikes outspoken British actor Stephen Fry.
"For me Stephen Fry is a bringer of evil, as he expresses ideas which are evil," Milonov told AFP in an interview in Saint Petersburg.
Milonov and Fry became arch enemies after the two men held a face-to-face meeting in Saint Petersburg in March and have traded insults through the media ever since. Fry is an implacable critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who he once memorably said looked like the Dobby the House Elf from the Harry Potter books.
Despite the outcry sparked by the adoption of the law both in Saint Petersburg and nationwide, Milonov sees no harm in what he describes as "preventative" legislation.
"It's a declaration of our values, our response to the challenges of the present time....Thank God that we have Putin, who defends the basic interests of Russia, for defending its values...[Russia] needs to resist the wave of degradation that has seized the Western world."
"I do not know why we have to apologise in front of Westerners. The preaching tone that they adopted in this area does not suit us."
Not unlike Harvey Fierstein, actor Stephen Fry has been very vocal about the gay rights abuses happening in Russia as the Sochi Olympics draw nearer. Fry challenged Prime Minister David Cameron's assertion that Britain's presence in the games is vital to the case for gay rights in Russia. Fry wrote,
At all costs Putin cannot be seen to have the approval of the civilised world. The Summer Olympics of 2012 were one of the most glorious moments of my life and the life of my country.
For there to be a Russian Winter Olympics would stain the movement for ever and wipe away any of that glory.
The Prime Minister replied via Twitter with,
Thank you for your note @stephenfry. I share your deep concern about the abuse of gay people in Russia.
‘However, I believe we can better challenge prejudice as we attend, rather than boycotting the Winter Olympics. DC.
At this point newspaper publisher Evgeny Lebedev invited the two men to The Grapes, a pub he co-owns with Sir Ian McKellen in Limehouse, to discuss their differences over drinks in a private room. When the meeting ended, sources say that Fry was pleased at Cameron's explanations on how Britain would use its attendance to make the case for gay rights, though no specifics were revealed.
Amidst calls for boycotts, bans and a relocation of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, out former NBA player John Amaechi has written an open letter to Olympic athletes and National Olympic Committees urging them not to boycott and not to stand as silent witnesses to the atrocities being committed against LGBT Russians. Amaechi, who in 2012 criticized the IOC's "cowardice" for not standing up for LGBT rights, writes:
Reasonable people can argue whether your ‘job’ is to win medals, to ski, skate, shoot and whatever else you do better than anyone else in the world. But as a former athlete myself, I know that what we do in practice and competition is only one small part of of our job. Many of you are icons in your respective sports, inspirational to a generation of young people who hang on your every tweet, ape your every action and follow your every suggestion. As such, it is your responsibility - as much as the quest for gold - to show the world that you understand that sport, especially Olympic sport, IS intrinsically political. It is your responsibility as you prepare to go to Sochi to publicly acknowledge that your games happen on the backs of the abuse of migrant workers, the threatening of environmental activists and journalists, the ‘disappearance’ of €25 billion and indeed, in the context of a country that is facilitating and then ignoring the torture of young gay boys and girls.
I’m not here to distract you from your previously singular purpose of representing yourself and your country in Sochi. Rather, I want you to fulfil that obligation to it’s fullest. I want you to embrace the supposed ‘Fundamental Principles of Olympism’ and in the IOC’s own words “...place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.”
Amaechi also comments on Stephen Fry's recent remarks comparing Russia's persecution of gays to Nazi Germany's persecution of Jews:
You have may have heard Russian, British and other Olympic and public officials balk at Stephen Fry’s analogy of Russia’s anti-propaganda laws with Nazi Germany’s. Normally, the internet revels in Godwin’s law where any argument ends up with one side calling the other a Nazi, but in this case, take a look for yourself at the 1935 Nuremberg laws and the eerie similarity with these laws designed to create an official smokescreen for the crude, stereotyping and scientifically disproven marginalization of certain minorities. Please do not be fooled by superficially charming men who defend the atrocities of regimes that have elevated them positions of power. History is littered with such men and their obfuscation should not be compounded by our silent collaboration.
Despite the ambiguity as to whether displays of support for LGBT rights will be tolerated by the Russian Federation to say nothing of the IOC itself, Amaechi underscores his belief in the importance of standing up and speaking out against the persecution of gays in Russia, stating,
Just as history is littered with the powerful men I described earlier, it is equally strewn with other figures who could have made a stand and taken action to highlight and embolden the oppressed but instead chose not to... and to my mind, no amount of gold hung around a neck can outshine the shame of such a stain."
I understand the logical, principled stand behind a call for a boycott, but I see it as impractical, politically untenable and if attempted, at best, piecemeal. I have also spoken to several key Russian activists who want the games to go ahead so that the athletes can compete, win and most importantly when they take those podiums - stand for something more than their personal and national glory.
Like Tommie Smith and John Carlos before you, you do not change the world by winning alone, but by using that podium as a soap box and in the 21st century the ways you can do that are wonderfully creative and varied, but don’t fool yourself into thinking, as one athlete I spoke to today, that winning in silence will show your support, that act is an abdication of the most important role any athlete can aspire to have - that of multidimensional exemplar to the world of sport and beyond [...]
Maybe you wish sports wasn’t political, maybe you think misguidedly that it isn’t, but whatever your thoughts, understand that the young people being tortured in Russia today will not know by telepathy that you abhor their treatment, the families of slain journalists will not not understand by looking into your tearful eyes on the podium that you support them and the world will not recognise that you stand for more than yourself unless you say or do something to make that clear at a time when the world is watching you.
You can read the letter in full HERE.
British actor Stephen Fry is joining calls for a relocation of the Sochi Games.
An absolute ban on the Russian Winter Olympics of 2014 on Sochi is simply essential. Stage them elsewhere in Utah, Lillyhammer, anywhere you like. At all costs Putin cannot be seen to have the approval of the civilised world.
He is making scapegoats of gay people, just as Hitler did Jews. He cannot be allowed to get away with it. I know whereof I speak. I have visited Russia, stood up to the political deputy who introduced the first of these laws, in his city of St Petersburg. I looked into the face of the man and, on camera, tried to reason with him, counter him, make him understand what he was doing. All I saw reflected back at me was what Hannah Arendt called, so memorably, “the banality of evil.” A stupid man, but like so many tyrants, one with an instinct of how to exploit a disaffected people by finding scapegoats. Putin may not be quite as oafish and stupid as Deputy Milanov but his instincts are the same. He may claim that the “values” of Russia are not the “values” of the West, but this is absolutely in opposition to Peter the Great’s philosophy, and against the hopes of millions of Russians, those not in the grip of that toxic mix of shaven headed thuggery and bigoted religion, those who are agonised by the rolling back of democracy and the formation of a new autocracy in the motherland that has suffered so much (and whose music, literature and drama, incidentally I love so passionately).
I am gay. I am a Jew. My mother lost over a dozen of her family to Hitler’s anti-Semitism. Every time in Russia (and it is constantly) a gay teenager is forced into suicide, a lesbian “correctively” raped, gay men and women beaten to death by neo-Nazi thugs while the Russian police stand idly by, the world is diminished and I for one, weep anew at seeing history repeat itself.
Yesterday, actor and activist George Takei called for the Sochi Games to be moved.
Today, the International Olympic Committee will receive more than 300,000 signatures urging it to denounce Russia's anti-gay laws. 83 members of Congress this week called on John Kerry to clarify the U.S. State Department's position on the controversy.
Russian officials have issued conflicting statements about whether athletes and visitors to the Olympics will be prosecuted under the anti-gay laws. Thus far, the IOC has said it is standing by assurances from the Russian government that the laws will not apply to Sochi visitors, which does nothing to change the fact of their existence and the human rights abuses being inflicted upon LGBT people there on a daily basis.
In an interview with comedian Richard Herring at London’s Leicester Square Theater, British actor Stephen Fry spoke for the first time about a suicide attempt he made last year as a result of not looking after his depression with medication.
"I’d go as far as to tell you I attempted it last year. I took a huge number of pills with a huge amount of vodka and the mixture of them made my body convulse so much that I broke four ribs. But I was still unconscious... Fortunately, the producer I was filming with at the time came into the hotel room and I was found in an unconscious state and taken back to England and looked after."
Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...