(Please note this story contains language in para 3 that
readers may find offensive)
MOSCOW May 26 A chain of Russian food stores
run by a devoutly religious nationalist businessman has placed
signs in its windows saying gay customers will be refused entry.
Russia decriminalised homosexuality in 1993, two years after
the fall of the Soviet Union, and Russian law prohibits sexual
discrimination. But prejudices still run deep and much of the
gay community remains underground.
"No entry for faggots," read a wooden plate at the entrance
to one of German Sterligov's shops in central Moscow.
Sterligov, 50, became a millionaire by opening a mercantile
exchange shortly before the Soviet Union's demise. Later in his
career he turned devoutly religious and retreated with his
family to rural Russia to sell organic farm produce.
"Our planet is full of filth and sick humans," Sterligov
told Reuters Television at a country fair outside Moscow.
"In front of our eyes is the historical experience of Sodom
and Gomorrah when God burned these towns," he said, referring to
a passage from the Old Testament.
Addressing the farm fair through a loudspeaker, Sterligov
praised U.S. President Donald Trump, who was swift to revoke his
predecessor Barack Obama's landmark guidance to public schools
allowing transgender students to use the bathroom of their
"We thank him. May God give him health," Sterligov said.
Yulia Gorbunova, a Human Rights Watch researcher, said the
retail chain's disregard for the law sent a dangerous message in
a country where homophobia remains prevalent.
"It seems like they are promoting homophobia in an already
homophobic society and it only leads to rising tensions," she
told Reuters Television. "The state certainly has a
responsibility to stop that and step in."
Alyona, a young assistant in one of Sterligov's Moscow
stores, said she shared the chain's stance on homosexuals "as a
"It's our guarding talisman," she said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied he discriminates
against sexual minorities.
(Reporting by Gennady Novik; Writing by Dmitry Solovyov;
Editing by Richard Lough)