Russia: 'Visit our gay bars' - speaker tells Europe's MPs

Gay rights activists march through Moscow in June 2013

Russia's parliamentary speaker invited European MPs to sample Moscow's gay scene when they questioned him on homosexual rights, it's reported.

Recent months have seen protests, "kiss-in" rallies and celebrities calling for a boycott of next year's Winter Olympics in Sochi, after Russia's parliament - the Duma - unanimously banned the promotion of gay lifestyles to minors. But Speaker Sergei Naryshkin told the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg: "I've not been to the many so-called gay clubs in Moscow and other cities in Russia, but witnesses say they're very pleasant and there's a good time to be had."

State broadcaster Rossiya TV showed him earning the applause of some MPs by telling them: "If anyone wants to check this out I'd be delighted to invite you to Moscow. Sadly I can't join you at a club, but I'll definitely see you're alright." Naryshkin insists that "people of non-traditional sexual orientations" flourish in the arts and business and enjoy equal civil rights. International gay rights watchdog Ilga-Europe might disagree. Even before the gay propaganda law was passed, it reported that - of 49 countries it rated in Europe - Russia was the hardest for a gay person to live.

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