A group supportive of Russian president Vladimir Putin have announced their intention to hold a “Gays for Putin” rally ahead of March’s presidential election, despite the country’s stringent laws on homosexuality.
The Moscow Times reports that the group, which calls itself “Gays for Putin!'” has asked authorities in St. Petersburg for permission to hold a rally with around 600 supporters.
“We decided to express the impetus of the gay community by openly supporting Vladimir Putin as a presidential candidate,” the group, led by organizers Vyacheslav Vereshchagin and Alexei Nazarov, said in a statement on Tuesday.
People often say that activists are cut off from the people. In Russia, there are millions of homosexuals, and almost none of them participate in [anti-Putin] demonstrations. Therefore, homosexuals support President Putin’s towards LGBT people.
Putin signs laws that serve the strengthen the moral and spiritual foundations of Russian society. Notable homosexuals are awarded with orders and medals. Many gay people in our country say, “Putin is our President. Gays are for Putin!”
After submitting their request to local authorities, the group reportedly congregated at a local church service “to pray for the success of the good endeavor.”
Plans for the rally come days after a homophobic campaign video supporting Putin appeared on social media, warning that his opponents will take the country into a “nightmare” future where people are forced to cohabitate with gays and lesbians.
The video, which has already attracted over three million views on Facebook alone, shows the thoughts of a middle-aged man imagining a Russia without Putin, where a man can be seen in his kitchen and suggestively eating a banana and filing his nails.
The advert is intended as a contrast to Putin’s opponent Ksenia Sobchak, who has called for the legalization of same-sex marriage and seeks to move the country in a less socially conservative direction.
“Presenting LGBT people as a threat in a homophobic country is no joke,” she wrote in an Instagram post, while also condemning the video as “vile.”
Sobchak has faced widespread claims that she is actually part of a controlled opposition designed to give the impression that the election will be free and fair.
Other opposition leaders, such as anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny, claim that the election will be rigged in Putin’s favor after being barred from running, meaning that he is extremely likely to win another six-year term.
Since returning to the presidency in 2012, Putin has backed laws restricting the rights of LGBT people, which include a ban on loosely-defined “homosexual propaganda” in a bid to uphold Russia’s traditional conservative values.