Russia, caught in a pre-Sochi Olympic uproar over gay rights, accuses the European Union in a new report of trying to enforce "an alien view" of homosexuality on other countries.
The accusation is contained in a 153-page "Report on the human rights situation in the European Union", in which Moscow hits back at human rights criticism it regularly faces from the West by listing what it sees as rights failings in EU nations.
The report, presented in Brussels yesterday (23 January) by Konstantin Dolgov, the Russian foreign ministry's human rights commissioner, said the EU and its 28 member states saw it as a priority to disseminate their "neo-liberal values as a universal lifestyle for all other members of the international community".
This is the second report of such a type. Last year’s report, citing xenophobia, racism, violent nationalism, police abuse and neo-Nazism among others, was tabled ahead of a EU-Russia summit (see background). Russian President Vladimir Putin comes to Brussels for the 32nd EU-Russia summit on 28 January.
"This is particularly evident in their aggressive promotion of the sexual minorities' rights. Attempts have been made to enforce on other countries an alien view of homosexuality and same-sex marriages as a norm of life and some kind of a natural social phenomenon that deserves support at the state level," the English version of the new report says.
"Such an approach encounters resistance not only in the countries upholding traditional values, but also in those countries which have always taken a liberal attitude towards queers," it said.
It gave as an example the opposition of many French people to the legalisation of same-sex marriage last year.
Russia, preparing to host the Winter Olympics in Sochi next month, has come under fire from human rights activists over a law banning the dissemination of "gay propaganda" among minors.
Activists say the law is part of a crackdown on freedoms under President Vladimir Putin, who travels to Brussels next Tuesday for a summit with EU leaders.
Pop singer Elton John spoke out on Wednesday against the Russian law, saying it legitimised homophobia and provided legal cover to extremists.
US President Barack Obama has included three openly gay athletes in the official US delegation to the Sochi Olympics in a move he made clear was intended to send a pointed message to Russia about gay rights.
Former tennis star Billie Jean King, Olympic figure skating champion Brian Boitano and Olympic ice hockey medalist Caitlin Cahow were among a group of prominent Americans named to represent the United States at the Games' ceremonies.
Dolgov warned athletes not to use the Olympics as a podium to campaign against the Russian law.
"If a skater is planning to come as a member of the Olympic team not to compete, but to fight against a law in the host country, it is very bad. It means that this particular skater does not respect Olympic principles, principles of the Olympic movement," he said at a news conference, without saying who he had in mind.
The Russian report said the most pressing human rights issues in the EU included a steady growth of xenophobia, racism, violent nationalism, chauvinism and neo-Nazism.
Grave violations of the rights of minorities, refugees and migrants were increasing in EU countries, and social rights of citizens were being infringed, the report said.
"No country is immune to human rights issues and problems. Nobody's record is perfect," Dolgov said.