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Amsterdam Welcomes Putin With Rainbows

A demonstrator holds up a picture depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin with rainbow circles on his face, during a protest in Amsterdam on April 8.
Amsterdam, the Dutch city of free love and open minds, pulled out all the stops to greet Russian President Vladimir Putin this week. Rainbow flags were flying at half-staff, the canals were crowded with floats, and thousands of protesters came out waving vicious but creative signs.

WATCH: Amsterdam welcomes the Russian president.

This virulent reaction may have come as a surprise to Putin, who claimed at a press conference on April 8 that there was no discrimination against homosexuals in Russia.

The Russian parliament passed a bill in January forbidding the dissemination of "gay propaganda" to minors, a vague pronouncement that may include parades, protests, and the use of the rainbow flag. The law, which awaits Putin's approval, would fine offenders up to 500,000 rubles ($16,000).

In Amsterdam, the evening protest quickly turned into a block party as thousands congregated across from the museum where Putin was dining with Queen Beatrix. Dressed in every color of the rainbow, the crowd waved homemade posters; "Putin go homo" and "I'm a person, not a propaganda" slogans were popular, as well as the simplistically elegant "F*** you, dictator."

A popular Dutch drag queen, Dolly Bellefleur, performed an original anthem protesting Putin's policies toward sexual minorities -- it featured scathing lyrics and fabulous costumes.

Not to be outdone, Internet users quickly responded to the protests. The result,, parodies the president by claiming that the world "looks much better with more rainbows, not less."

The pictures range from the subtle to the extreme, and certainly dip into the very, very strange. Users can submit their own ideas and there is a link to the petition against the gay-propaganda law.

The Netherlands is Russia's No. 1 trade partner in Europe, but even city hall got in on the festivities, flying their own rainbow flag at half-staff. A deputy mayor told Euronews, "We have a large gay community in Amsterdam and we want to make sure that in our city that everybody can live the way they want and be whoever they are and we want to make sure that everybody in the world knows that."

It's been a tough week of travel for Putin, who was earlier accosted by topless protesters while at a trade conference in Germany. The women, from the Ukrainian feminist group Femen, wrote slogans on their bare chests and backs and yelled "dictator" at the president. Putin managed to squeeze in a ridiculous smirk and double thumbs up before the women were tackled and dragged out by his security team.

-- Eleanor Klibanoff

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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