In an apparent response to a recent upsurge in violence targeting Russian homosexuals and legislation there banning gay "propaganda," ballet legend Mikhail Baryshnikov has issued a statement calling "any discrimination and persecution of gay people...unacceptable."
Baryshnikov, who defected from the Soviet Union in 1974, says, "My life has been immensely enriched by gay mentors, colleagues, and friends" and said equal treatment is a basic human right.
He adds that it is "sad that we still have to even speak about this in the 21st century."
, which does not specifically mention Russia, was posted on the website of the No More Fear Foundation, a U.S.-based advocacy group that seeks to
"address the growing crisis of the LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender] rights in the Russian Federation and neighboring countries."
Baryshnikov joins celebrities including Madonna, Lady Gaga, and Elton John in speaking out in favor of gay rights in Russia.
A recently passed Russian law prohibits the "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations" among minors.
Baryshnikov was born in 1948 to Russian parents in Riga, Latvia, which was under Soviet control at the time.