Obama to meet with LGBT activists in Russia

11:00 PM, Sep 3, 2013   |    comments
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By Aamer Madhani, USA TODAY

President Obama plans to meet with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights activists while he's in Russia this week for the G-20 summit.

Igor Kochetkov of LGBT Network told the Associated Press that his group is accepting an invitation to meet with Obama in St. Petersburg on Thursday. The St. Petersburg-based advocacy group Coming Out said it was invited but hasn't decided whether to go.

The White House did not have immediate comment on the meeting, which was first reported by BuzzFeed.

Russia has faced international criticism since it passed a law in June banning the promotion of non-traditional sexual relations to minors. Human rights groups have reported there's been an uptick of violence against the country's LGBT community since the laws passed. The legislation has led to calls for a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Last month, Obama said he didn't support boycotting the Sochi games, because he didn't want to penalize American athletes. But Obama has been sharply critical of the Russian laws.

"Nobody is more offended than me by some of the anti-gay and lesbian legislation that you've been seeing in Russia," Obama said last month.

The meeting will almost certainly add tension to the already tense relationship between Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Obama canceled a scheduled meeting with Putin in Moscow before the G-20 summit. The cancellation followed a string of disputes, including Russia's decision to grant asylum to former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden and its blocking of action by the United Nations Security Council against Syria.

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