British actor Stephen Fry on Thursday clashed with the Russian politician behind a controversial law in the second city of Saint Petersburg that activists see as violating the rights of gays.
Fry, who is openly gay, met city lawmaker Vitaly Milonov while filming a BBC documentary titled "Out There" about being gay around the world, he wrote on Twitter.
Best known for playing valet Jeeves in the comedy series "Jeeves and Wooster," Fry is widely known in Russia and his meeting with Milonov prompted a heated discussion.
Milonov, of ruling United Russia party, was the sole author of a law passed by the Saint Petersburg parliament making it illegal to distribute "propaganda of homosexuality" among minors.
The loosely worded law can be used to ban any Gay Pride event and equates homosexuality with paedophilia, critics say. It sets a fine of up to 500,000 rubles ($16,200) as punishment.
Milonov has become a hate figure to some rights activists but the Russian parliament is considering making the measure federal law, in line with Saint Petersburg and several other regions.
During the interview, which lasted more than an hour, Fry wrote on Twitter that "Milonov and I (are) going at it hammer and tongs."
Milonov "doesn’t seem to believe there are teenagers bullied and tormented for being gay, he thinks they make it up and indoctrinate to minors," he said.
He finally called the interview "all very sad."
But Milonov told AFP afterwards that Fry was unwilling to see his point of view.
"Fry is making a film about gays and according to the rules of the genre, he needed an opinion opposing his. But in reality he was not at all interested in it," he said.
"For him, we who support the law against promotion of homosexuality are just crazy savages."
Yet in televised comments, Milonov praised Fry as "a very talented, very remarkable person" and said he would pray for his family.
A photograph by RIA Novosti news agency showing Fry and Milonov shaking hands infuriated prominent gay rights activist Nikolai Alexeyev, who has organised a series of gay parades that were roughly broken up in Moscow.
"It's not clear why the hell he is giving him more publicity. Fry will fly out and the homophobia will remain," he wrote on Twitter.