Activist from the Russia’s LGBT community are to meet with Barack Obama during the president’s forthcoming visit to the G20 summit in St Petersburg this week.
Washington has been critical of President Putin’s stance towards LGBT rights, particularly the recent passing of a law that bans homosexual propaganda in Russia. Obama recently withdrew from proposed talks with Putin in protest at ongoing security and human rights concerns.
On Tuesday, Igor Kochetkov of the LGBT Network, told the Associated Press that his campaign group had scheduled a Thursday meeting with Obama. Other LGBT advocates have reportedly also been invited to the meeting.
Speaking to Reuters, Pavel Chikov of the legal advocacy rights Agora, said: "Judging by the list of participants, we will talk about gay rights and the situation of non-governmental organizations in Russia."
The White House has yet to comment on Obama’s schedule beyond attending the G20 Summit, however the meeting is likely to increase tension between Putin and Obama, a relationship already scarred from Putin decision to grant asylum to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and his intransigence over missile strikes on Syria.
The Kremlin has been the focus of international censure since it passed the controversial law in June, which officially prohibits the promotion of homosexual relationships to children.
The bill, enacted to gain Putin traction with the influential Russian Orthodox Church, has ignited an upsurge in violence against members of the LGBT community in Russia, leading to international calls for the Olympic International Committee (IOC) to review Russia's hosting of the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi. International gay rights groups have urged participating countries to boycott the event.
On Wednesday, Putin attempted to allay concerns ahead of the Winter Games, insisting Russia's new anti-gay law is not discriminatory.
"I assure you that I work with these people, I sometimes award them with state prizes or decorations for their achievements in various fields," Putin said in an interview with Associated Press. "We have absolutely normal relations and I don't see anything out of the ordinary here."