Russian athletes deny making ‘gay kiss’ gesture

Russia's Tatyana Firova and Kseniya Ryzhova kiss after winning the women's 4x400 metres. Picture: Getty/ AFP
Russia's Tatyana Firova and Kseniya Ryzhova kiss after winning the women's 4x400 metres. Picture: Getty/ AFP
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A Russian athlete has denied she intended to show her disapproval of her country’s “anti-gay propaganda” law when she kissed a teammate on the winners’ podium at the Moscow world athletics championships.

Kseniya Ryzhova said she was insulted that the Russian 4x400m relay team’s victory celebrations on Saturday had been overshadowed by speculation in the western media that her kiss with Yulia Gushchina had been intended as a protest.

“There was no hidden political motive,” she said of the kiss, shown on television channels around the world. “Instead of congratulating the athletes, they [the press] decided to insult not only Yulia but the whole [Russian] athletics federation. First of all, both Yulia and I are married,” she said yesterday, to applause from Russian journalists.

The law against spreading “gay propaganda” among minors is part of the conservative course Vladimir Putin has charted in his third term as president, following protests against his 13-year rule of Russia.

It has been widely condemned abroad, but opinion polls show a vast majority of Russians support it. And despite calls from gay rights groups for a boycott of Russia’s hosting of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, some Russian athletes have defended the law.

World champion pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva suggested in a statement to the media – from which she later distanced herself – that there were no homosexuals in “normal” Russia.

She also said two Swedish competitors who painted their fingernails with rainbow colours in support of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) rights were disrespectful to Russia.