Merkel quizzes Putin on gay rights 

Merkel quizzes Putin on gay rights 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has quizzed Russian President Vladimir Putin on gay rights during her visit to Sochi. 

She said she had raised the persecution of suspected gay men in Chechnya, a fresh ban on Jehovah’s Witnesses and the arrest of anti-Kremlin activists.

“I have, in my talks with the Russian president, indicated how important is the right to demonstrate in a civil society and how important the role of NGOs is,” the veteran chancellor told the media.

“I also spoke about the very negative report about what is happening to homosexuals in Chechnya and asked Mr President to exert his influence to ensure that minorities’ rights are protected,” Merkel added. Putin hosted Merkel at his residence in Sochi for her first visit to Russia since May 2015.

Their two-hour meeting addressed economic problems like sanctions imposed on Russia and differences over Ukraine and Syria.

Germany has called on Putin to fulfil the 2015 Minsk peace agreement, which was meant to end the fighting in eastern Ukraine.

In Germany, gay rights protesters had engaged in a 48-hour vigil outside Merkel’s office, demanding that she raise the issue of gay persecution in Chechnya.

On the issue Putin blandly said: “Our law enforcement and judicial organs act within the framework of the laws that exist in Russia and will continue to act in that way, observing order and discipline.”

As Merkel seeks re-election on September 24, the Kremlin-controlled media could play a role influencing an estimated 2.5 million voters who speak Russian, making up the largest minority voting bloc. Most so-called Russian-Germans have ancestors who moved to the Russian-speaking regions to farm and returned after the Cold War.

Up to 60 per cent of the group reportedly considered state-run, anti-Merkel Russian television more trustworthy than domestic broadcasters and 40 per cent said it was their main source of news, the Bonn-based Boris Nemtsov Foundation for Freedom reported.

Polling suggests Merkel is more popular than her Social Democrat rival Martin Schulz, although her CDU party’s lead over the SPD is far smaller. The right-wing Alternate for Deutschland (AfD) has attracted most of its support from Merkel, luring an estimated 1.5 million Russian speakers since the arrival of more than 1 million migrants since 2015.

The AfD, formed in 2013, has seen its support in the poll drop to 8 per cent, although this would allow it to become the first right-wing party to enter the national parliament since the Second World War. The AfD’s rise is hurting the CDU more than the SPD.

A gay pride parade in St Petersburg in 2013. Picture credit: Wikimedia 


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