Gay, feminist groups protest against Putin on Germany, Netherlands tour

Vladimir Putin faced hundreds of protesters ranging from gay rights activists to a topless feminist group during his visit to Germany and the Netherlands, but the Russian president appeared unruffled by the furore.

In Hanover, Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel criticised Russia's human rights record at a press conference on Monday. Then activists from Ukraine's Femen group bared their breasts and ran at him shouting "Putin dictator!" before they were detained.

Putin shrugged off the protest later with what appeared to be an off-colour comment and a swipe at Dutch protesters angry over Russian lawmakers' approval of a bill that bans gay "propaganda".

"I hadn't had time to have breakfast, so I would have liked it more if they showed some sausage or pork fat, not the beauties they showed," he said at a press conference in Amsterdam. "Thank God, the gays didn't strip naked here."

In Amsterdam, more than a thousand gay rights activists picketed outside his meeting with Prime Minister Mark Rutte, and rainbow flags around the city flew at half-staff.

Protesters booed and whistled at when Putin arrived at the Amsterdam arm of the Hermitage museum. Amnesty International blanketed the area with satirical signs and police tape proclaiming it a "human rights free zone" during Putin's visit.

The Russian bill makes gay public events and the dissemination of information about the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community to minors punishable by fines of up to US$16,000. It still requires final approval by Parliament and would have to be signed by Putin to become law.

Rutte said he had told Putin during their meeting that for the Dutch, gay rights are "inextricably linked with human rights". In 2001, the Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalise gay marriage.

Putin deflected the criticism, claiming that gay rights are not abused in Russia.

"These people, like others, have all rights and freedoms," he said.

Russia decriminalised homosexuality in 1993, but homophobia remains strong and authorities routinely ban gay pride parades.

Russia's treatment of gays "is clearly very hotly debated", said Philip Tijsma, spokesman for the Netherlands' largest gay rights organisation. "It's not only among the gay community, straight people are also very angry."

Mayor Eberhard van der Laan snubbed any meeting with Putin, saying he had "other commitments".


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The mission of the "FEMEN" movement is to create the most favourable conditions for the young women to join up into a social group with the general idea of the mutual support and social responsibility, helping to reveal the talents of each member of the movement.

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