Western Reaction to Russia's Anti-LGBT Bill ‘Interference in Internal Affairs’ - Envoy
WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - Russia considers the reaction by the collective West to its Decree on Traditional Values to be interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign country, Russian Ambassador to Canada Oleg Stepanov said.
Stepanov was summoned to the Canadian Foreign Ministry earlier on Monday in connection with the embassy's lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender (LGBT)-related tweets, which were posted in response to the statement released by a coalition of Western states on Russia's law banning the promotion of LGBT propaganda.
"I said that we perceive the statement on behalf of the Coalition for Equal Rights as interference in the internal affairs of Russia as well as an attempt to influence the independent legislative process in a sovereign state," Stepanov said on Monday.
Stepanov called the conversation "substantive" and emphasized that Russia and Canada have agreed to maintain diplomatic contact and channels of communication despite the deep divergence and the strong disagreements between them.
"We agreed not to agree yet, but to maintain diplomatic contact and channels of diplomatic communication because in times of crisis this is important despite deep differences and even chasms between our views on what is happening," Stepanov said.
The ambassador noted that he met with Deputy Foreign Minister Sandra McCardell, who expressed the Canadian government's concerns about the legislative initiatives in Russia to protect the younger generation from non-traditional propaganda, which Ottawa considers to be contrary to universal human rights.
"Secondly, [she invited me] to reaffirm their signature on the Equal Rights Coalition document, which was released late last week on behalf of Canada and a number of sympathetic countries where we have been criticized," Stepanov said. "And thirdly, to express disagreement and concern in connection with the publication on the embassy's media portals of the statement in defense of traditional values."
Stepanov said he provided a detailed answer and drew attention to the fact that the Canadian Embassy in Moscow reports to the foreign affairs ministry and the essence of Russia's laws concern the preservation of traditional values.
"I told her about our document, which was approved by the president on November 9. Once again I handed over the text in English and French to our Canadian colleagues, explained that the task of our legislation is to protect adults and children precisely from propaganda of non-traditional or criminally punishable deviations," he said. "I reminded them that Russia is the custodian and bearer of traditional values. Western governments, including Canada, must respect the views on life of the majority of the Russian population."
Stepanov said he emphasized during the conversation with McCardell that Russia does not interfere in Canada’s affairs and expects the Canadian government not to interfere in Russia’s.
"In general, the countries should respect internal traditions, historical roots, values and not impose them on each other," he said. "We do not pursue such a goal in Canada and would like Canada to allow our society to develop according to its own laws and aspirations without external interference."
Stepanov noted the Canadian Embassy in Moscow posted LGBT rainbow flags, which Russia considers a violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and a manifestation of disrespect for the customs and traditions of the host country.
"If they come to us with their uninvited so-called ‘values’ and try to make some kind of political statements, then they should not be surprised when we make statements," he said.
"I advised our Canadian counterparts how to address this situation. We expect them to not interfere in our internal affairs, in our lives according to our customs, historical canons and values. And then, by doing so, they will not create an unnecessary burden and irritant in our bilateral relations from the so-called ‘LGBT agenda.’ That's all. Everything should take place on the principle of the sovereign equality of states."
The Russian ambassador said Moscow does not impose on Canada its customs and traditions but demands from Ottawa - also from the collective West - that they also do not impose their pseudo-values on Russia.
"Then we will live together. Everyone in their country will realize their life according to their preferences and principles," he said.
In addition, Stepanov said the situation in Ukraine was discussed during his meeting at the foreign affairs ministry.
"[Ukraine’s President Volodymyr] Zelensky can order the armed forces of Ukraine to lay down their arms and, together with his cabinet, the government and the state apparatus of Ukraine, agree to undergo voluntary denazification and ensure the demilitarization of Ukraine," Stepanov said.
"The conflict would be over in a few days. We understand this, but this logic remains incomprehensible to Canada, which arms and sponsors Ukraine and is one of its leading sponsors."
Last week, the State Duma - the lower house of the Russian parliament - passed a law banning the promotion of LGBT propaganda, pedophilia and gender reassignment in advertising, media, books, movies and audiovisual services. Violators face a fine of up to 10 million rubles ($165,000). The legislation still needs to pass the Federation Council - the upper chamber of parliament - and be signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The State Duma also adopted a technical law to ensure the entry into effect of a ban on foreign agents to serve in the foreign affairs ministry, hold rallies, as well as impose a number of other restrictions. Amendments were also made by the State Duma to deprive individuals with acquired Russian citizenship for surrender or evasion of military service.