Vladimir Putin has said he will look at the homophobic laws in Russia and ‘improve’ them in the future.
The Russian president was in Vienna to meet with Austrian President Heinz Fischer to make a deal on a pipeline that will reportedly pump half of Russia’s gas supply to Europe from 2016.
At a press conference, he was forced to answer questions on human rights abuses in Russia.
‘There are stereotypes that exist regarding Russia, including on issues of sexual minorities, to a large extent…[are] a fictional idea,’ he said.
‘Remember, there are many other countries that are far worse on homosexuality, and other manifestations of the so-called sexual orientation.
‘But we will look to the future and will improve legislation in this area.’
He did not say whether ‘improvement’ means gay rights will change for the better, or whether the law itself will become more strict.
His Austrian hosts did not challenge any of his remarks.
Fischer instead criticised EU sanctions on Russia, saying: ‘Nobody benefits from sanctions … They aren’t helping to produce any profit for anybody’.
Ed Mishin, a gay rights activist in Russia, told Gay Star News he was not optimistic following Putin’s remarks.
‘For now, it’s hard to tell what he means by these comments,’ he said.
‘I think he is a little bit sick of all the criticism surrounding the issue. In Russia, it is not a problem, but it’s a problem outside.
‘His position is very clear, it is not an “anti-gay” law, it’s about protecting children.’
He added: ‘He has said this type of thing before when he has gone to other countries.
‘Nothing changes, really. And nothing is going to change in the future.’