British gay clubs boycott Russian vodka
Some of London's biggest gay venues are boycotting Russian vodka as part of a global movement to highlight the Kremlin's anti-gay laws, they told AFP on Tuesday.
The G-A-Y Group, which runs the famous Heaven superclub, is among those removing Russian products after President Vladimir Putin's government banned "gay propaganda" and cracked down on gay rights protests.
"As other countries move forwards (on gay rights), Russia is moving backwards," Jeremy Joseph, founder and owner of the G-A-Y Group, told AFP.
"It's important to show solidarity at a really hard time."
Joseph said he had asked his venues, including Heaven -- which has a capacity of almost 2,000 -- as well as three other gay nightspots to take Russian drinks off the shelves with immediate effect.
The Shadow Lounge, which calls itself "Europe's premier gay members' club", and Manbar in Soho also said they were boycotting Russian vodka, both naming Stolichnaya as the main brand affected.
US writer Dan Savage called for the boycott last week, urging gay bars to "dump Stoli and dump Russian vodka" over what he called "Putin's anti-gay pogrom".
Christopher Amos, owner of Manbar, said the call had "gone viral among the gay community internationally".
Stolichnaya has already responded to the campaign, issuing an open letter dated Friday condemning the "dreadful actions taken by the Russian government".
Val Mendeleev, chief executive of the SPI Group, which owns the brand, said: "Stolichnaya vodka has always been, and continues to be, a fervent supporter to the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community."
He said the Russian government had no control or ownership over the brand, which is headquartered in Luxembourg.
Joseph said he hoped the boycott would prompt supermarkets to follow suit, and added that corporate sponsors of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi should also reconsider their position.
"Young gay men are being targeted, there's been murders -- there's no protection for them now," he said.
"You can attack a gay man in Russia and not face the consequences."
More than 1,300 people have signed up on Facebook for a gay rights protest outside London's Russian embassy on August 10.
Putin this month signed a law banning same-sex couples in foreign countries from adopting Russian children.
Last month the country introduced a law imposing jail terms for people promoting homosexual "propaganda" to minors, while dozens were arrested at gay rights protests.
Also in June, investigators said three men in the eastern region of Kamchatka were suspected of kicking and stabbing their neighbour to death because he was gay.
© 2013 AFP