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Friday 3 July 2020

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A Russian ice cream company has come under fire for it's multicolored advertisements, which one politician said "accustomed" children to the LGBT pride flag. (file photo)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has called for "non-aggressive" public monitoring of what he described as efforts to promote "non-traditional lifestyles."

"If there is reason to assume that something is propaganda of values not traditional for us, then public organizations that share the official stance of Russia’s authorities…should build up public control accordingly, but not aggressively," Putin said during a July 3 videoconference with a "working group" he had set up to draft amendments to the constitution.

One of the more than 200 amendments that Putin signed into law the same day defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman to enshrine the country's ban on same-sex marriage in the constitution.

In 2013, Russia adopted a law outlawing “gay propaganda” to minors, which bans any content that presents "distorted ideas about the equal social value of traditional and non-traditional sexual relations."

During the conference, the head of the Women’s Union of Russia drew Putin's attention to an ice cream with the brand name "Rainbow," which uses multicolored advertising vaguely reminiscent of the LGBT Pride rainbow flag.

"Even indirectly, such things make our children accustomed to that…flag," Yekaterina Lakhova said. "It would be very good to have a commission to make sure that those values that we enshrined in our constitution were upheld."

In an interview with Ekho Moskvy, the vice president of the company that produces "Rainbow" ice cream, rejected any association between the product and the LGBT banner.

"It is a delightfully delicious and high-quality ice cream with various colors based on natural dyes," Armen Beniaminov said, adding: "For us, the rainbow represents the sunshine after a rain, the most beautiful natural phenomenon. We don’t see any comparison with the LGBT movement or its symbols."

At the same July 3 meeting, Putin also mocked the U.S. Embassy in Moscow for flying a rainbow flag to mark LGBT Pride Month, saying the move "revealed something about the people that work there."

"Yes," the president said. “We pass a law banning the propaganda of homosexuality among minors. So what? Let people grow up, become adults, and then decide their own destinies.”

Human rights activists say that homophobic hate crimes have increased in Russia since the 2013 law was passed.

Last year, prominent LGBT activist Yelena Grigoryeva was killed in St. Petersburg after appearing on a hit list published by the homophobic group Saw Against LGBT.

With reporting by RIA Novosti, Ekho Moskvy, and Interfax
Ukraine's Central Bank Governor Yakiv Smoliy addresses lawmakers in Kyiv on July 3.

The Ukrainian parliament has voted to confirm the departure of central bank Governor Yakiv Smoliy, who says he resigned because of "systematic political pressure" to take decisions that were not based on economics.

Addressing lawmakers before the vote on July 3, Smoliy described his abrupt resignation two days earlier "a protest, a signal, a red line."

He said that "for a long time the National Bank [of Ukraine, or NBU] has been under systematic political pressure, pressure to make decisions that are not economically justified...and can cost the Ukrainian economy dear."

Smoliy said that the NBU was pressured to lower interest rates, let inflation rise, and keep the national currency, the hryvnia, weak.

He also mentioned smear campaigns against him and other central bank employees and paid rallies outside the institution.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's office has denied that Smoliy has been put under pressure and sought to reassure investors that the NBU would remain independent under his successor.

Smoliy had headed the NBU since 2018.

His deputy, Kateryna Rozhkova, was named NBU acting chief and said that maintaining its independence would remain a "red line."

Smoliy announced his resignation late on July 1, fueling concerns among Ukraine's foreign backers and investors about the government’s commitment to its reform agenda under Zelenskiy, who has pledged to combat corruption.

The resignation could endanger a pending $5 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) aimed at helping Ukraine cope with the fallout from the global coronavirus pandemic.

The IMF praised Smoliy's leadership of the NBU and warned that the bank’s independence "must be maintained under his successor."

The EU said Smoliy's resignation "against the backdrop of alleged political pressure sends a worrying signal."

With reporting by Reuters and RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service

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