Tourists heading to Russia are being warned that they could be fined, jailed or even deported under tough new anti-gay laws in the country. Russia’s President Vladimir Putin signed the new legislation into effect earlier this month with the aim of punishing “homosexual propaganda” but critics say the bill is so vague it could stir up trouble for many gay locals and travelers.
The law makes it illegal for anyone in Russia to publicly admit that they are gay or make any gestures that might hint at their sexuality, such as wearing rainbow clothing, holding hands or kissing someone of the same sex.Visitors to the country aren’t excluded from the tough anti-gay measures either. The law gives Russian authorities the right to arrest gay or pro-gay tourists and hold them in jail for up to two weeks. Gay travelers can also be deported from the country for expressing their homosexuality.
The new legislation comes just seven months out from the Winter Olympics, which the country is set to host in early 2014. The event is expected to attract an influx of international visitors, including many gay athletes and spectators.
However, an LGBT organization based in New York has warned gay travelers to be cautious about venturing into the country, saying, “We really want the LGBT community to know it’s unsafe to travel there.”
It was a well-known tactic of the KGB, the Soviet Secret Police organization, to disguise their agents as tourists who would ask probing and embarrassing questions of visiting heads of state. But a new photo has just surfaced that purports to show Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who was once a member of the KGB, dressed as a tourist during Ronald Reagan’s 1988 visit to the Soviet Union.
Pete Souza, the man who took the photo above, says the US Secret Service was not fooled by the undercover KGB agents. According to Souza (now the official White House presidential photographer), Reagan reportedly said, “I can’t believe these tourists in the Soviet Union are asking these pointed questions.” A nearby Secret Service agent replied, “Oh, these are all KGB families.”
So is the dorky tourist in the photo above really Vladimir Putin, as Souza claims? Not according to Russian political analyst Andrey Piontkovsky. “Vladimir Putin was a major serving in Dresden and he wasn’t important enough at that time to be brought to Moscow,” he said.
Closing Russian polls this Sunday are indicating that Dmitry Medvedev, long preened to be the next Russian President has won in a landslide victory over the opposing candidates. Putin, in the meantime, is taking up the newly coined role of “Prime Minister”, which, shall we say, is Russian for “Medvedev is my bitch”.
Rather than give you the straight news that you can pick up on msnbc or Reuters, I’ve decided to sum up the election in a series of sarcastic statements. I’m from the Midwest — what can I say — it’s how we get through our cold winters.
- See? Russia isn’t heavy handed
- I’ll bet you that Medvedev’s Moscow is going to be a new, fresh leadership, corruption will plummet and Putin will wile his days away in a hunting cabin in the St. Petersburg countryside.
- At least the KGB isn’t running the entire Russian government!
- I’ll bet that the new cabinet and Kremlin officials won’t be identical to Putin’s outgoing staff.
- Hey, as long as Russia’s economy is booming, who gives a rip about who’s in charge?
- I mean, who isn’t nostalgic for another era of secret police and mass paranoia?
Wellll, crap. I suppose things could be worse. Although Putin’s administration seriously creeped me out more than a few times over the years, Medvedev seems like a pretty nice guy. They let Kosvo declare independence, right?
The real question is how much power Putin will retain in his Prime Minister position. If Medvedev actually steps in and begins to rule the country like a leader, things could be interesting. But if the Putin era continues, we’re probably in for the same old heavy handed Russia of yore.
Since Vladimir Putin just won the elections in Russia (can you believe it?), I decided to go with the theme of present-day Russia for today’s photo. Here is a picture by Yuri Mamchur, author of the Russia Blog, of a parking lot by a 5-star hotel in Moscow. It would almost make you believe that Russians like Mercedes cars, wouldn’t it.
Until, of course, you remember that although there are a lot of Mercedes-cruising socialites in Moscow, the average male in Russia has a life expectancy of less than 60 years. And those are typically not exactly Mercedes-cruising years…
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