Vitaly Milonov believes that British actor Stephen Fry is a “bringer of evil,” thinks homosexuality is a perversion and thanks God for giving Russia Vladimir Putin to defend its values.
Milonov, a lawmaker in the local parliament of Russia’s second city of Saint Petersburg, has become a hate figure for gay rights activists and not just for his inflammatory rhetoric.
He has also had a concrete effect on modern Russian society by introducing a hugely controversial law into the local parliament outlawing “gay propaganda.”
Once passed by the former imperial capital, the law was picked up by deputies in the federal lower house of parliament the State Duma and passed nationwide and was signed into law by President Putin in June.
But activists say the law can be used for a broad crackdown against gays in Russia and the controversy has created a huge headache for the Kremlin which has faced calls for a boycott of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games.
But Milonov remains defiant in the face of the furore and makes no secret of his views about Fry who has called for Russia to be stripped of its right to host the Games and led an increasingly visible Internet campaign.
“For me Stephen Fry is a bringer of evil, as he expresses ideas which are evil,” Milonov told AFP in an interview in Saint Petersburg.
Milonov and Fry became arch enemies after the two men held a face-to-face meeting in Saint Petersburg in March and have traded insults through the media ever since.
Fry is an implacable critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who he once memorably said looked like the Dobby the House Elf from the Harry Potter books.
‘We don’t have to apologise’
Despite the outcry sparked by the adoption of the law both in Saint Petersburg and nationwide, Milonov sees no harm in what he describes as “preventative” legislation.
“It’s a declaration of our values, our response to the challenges of the present time.”
“Thank God that we have Putin, who defends the basic interests of Russia, for defending its values,” said Milonov, saying that Russia “needs to resist the wave of degradation that has seized the Western world.”
“I do not know why we have to apologise in front of Westerners. The preaching tone that they adopted in this area does not suit us.”
The law orders fines for individuals and organisations deemed to have violated the law, and, unusually, also singles out foreigners who risk fines of up to 100,000 rubles ($3,106), detention for 15 days and deportation.
Many commenters believe Russia underestimated the international reaction to the law, which now risks overshadowing the Sochi Winter Games, the biggest event in its post-Soviet history.
But Milonov, who describes himself as a “man of European culture” defends the law as part of a promotion of family values in Russia and the protection of children.
“We have to defend the future of our children,” said Milonov, who has children aged 4 and 1.
He railed against the legalisation of gay marriage in some European countries, describing it as a “symptom of an illness in society, a spiritual degradation.”
“Ninety-five percent of Russians are against gay marriage. Gays do not have any support in Russian society.”
“We could say that paedophilia is a sexual choice we could say that murder is one way to survive. But truth is truth and we cannot change the way things are. Homosexuality is not normal, I’m sorry.”
Milonov’s rants against homosexuals would see him outcast as an extremist in European societies but in Russia they fall in line with an increasingly conservative political trend.
President Vladimir Putin this month put the gay propaganda law firmly in the context of Russia’s shrinking population, implying that Russia wanted to avoid encouraging homosexuality in order to bolster the birth rate.
“Russia and European countries have a big problem, the birth rate is low, Europeans are dying out. Same-sex marriages do not produce children,” Putin said at a meeting of the Valdai discussion club.
[Image: Stephen Fry via Shutterstock]