Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has told the United Nations General Assembly that Russian President Vladimir Putin is exporting homophobia to his neighbors in an attempt to retain influence over the countries of the former Soviet Union.
‘He had nothing to offer to his former zone of influence,’ Saakashvili told the General Assembly.
‘He has no soft power. He has no economic benefits to offer them.’
‘So what he's telling them [is] “OK, Europe is promising you much more, it's a better market, they might give you subsidies, they might give you lots of new opportunities and openings. But what you should know is Europe is all about gay rights. If you go to Europe, your family values will be undermined, your traditions will be destroyed. So we as Orthodox unity, we should stick together.”’
‘It's all about way of life, it's not about gay pride or whether your son will become gay because you are in Europe or Russia.
‘This is all about whether political opponents are held in prison, whether there is freedom of speech, free elections, meritocracy or nepotism, criminal authorities directing everything. It's really fundamental issues that are at stake.’
Saakashvili said Russia’s foreign policy was ‘fueled by intolerance.’
Saakashvili may have been referring to moves in Ukraine and Armenia to pass similar laws to Russia’s ban on so-called homosexual propaganda and also an attack by thousands of far-right activists on an International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia event in the Georgian capital in May.
They were carrying banners that read ‘Stop homosexual propaganda in Georgia.’
The event had been widely criticized by the Georgian Orthodox Church.
Russia and Georgia fought a 5 day war under Saakashvili’s presidency in 2008 over the breakaway Republic of South Ossetia which Russia has effectively controlled since 1992 so there is no love between the two leaders.
Georgia has not prosecuted anyone for homosexual acts since 1991, formally legalizing them in 2000, and became one of the few countries in the former Soviet Union to protect people on the basis of sexual orientation in employment in 2006.