President Obama will meet with LGBT leaders when he goes to Russia this week for the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg, reports Buzzfeed. While U.S. officials have met with NGOs when coming to the country before, this is first time a sitting president has requested an audience with gay activists. (Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meat LGBT groups when she was in St. Petersburg in 2012.)
Four Russian non-governmental organizations told BuzzFeed Monday they had been invited to the meeting, scheduled for this Thursday at St. Petersburg’s Crowne Plaza Hotel. The groups include veteran human rights activists Lev Ponomarev and Lyudmila Alexeyeva, legal aid NGO director Pavel Chikov, and Coming Out, a St. Petersburg-based LGBT organization.
Another local LGBT group, the LGBT Network, is believed to be attending, though director Igor Kochetkov declined to comment to BuzzFeed, saying that he had been “asked not to say anything.”
In August, Obama told Jay Leno he had “no patience” for Russia’s anti-gay agenda.
A month prior, Dmitry Isakov became the first person arrested under Russia’s ban after his parents turned him in for staging a one-man protest in Kazan, Russia. Isakov, 24, held up a sign reading, “Being gay and loving gays is normal. Beating gays and killing gays is a crime!”
After calling the authorities, Isakov’s parents tackled him to the ground and ripped the poster away. Russian activist Nikolai Alekseyev, who has been critical of the lack of international response to homophobia in the former Soviet Union, says he is providing Isakov legal support.