by JOE DELMONACO
Pavel Lebedev, a gay Russian protester, was arrested on Saturday after being tackled by members of the Russian Security Forces for unfurling a rainbow flag in the town of Voronezh, 560 miles north of Sochi, venue for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games.
Mr. Lebedev unfurled the flag during the passing of the Olympic torch relay en route to Sochi. Reached by the AP while still in the local police station, he said that the Olympics should not be held in Russia. “Hosting the Games here contradicts the basic principles of the Olympics, which is to cultivate tolerance.”
Meanwhile, in an interview with BBC 1 on Saturday, Russian president Vladimir Putin insisted that there was no discrimination against gays in his country. Speaking in response to the international backlash against an anti-gay-propaganda law whose passage he supported, Mr. Putin cited the example of Sir Elton John, who recently performed in Moscow and publicly condemned the law. He said that John was an “extraordinary person loved by millions regardless of his sexual orientation.”
“We have recently passed a law prohibiting propaganda, and not of homosexuality only, but of homosexuality and child abuse, child sexual abuse. But this is nothing to do with persecuting individuals for their sexual orientation. There’s a world of difference between these things.”
Joe Delmonaco is a freelance writer living in New York City.