MOSCOW (Reuters) - An anti-gay activist group said it will picket shops selling milk produced by PepsiCo Inc’s Russian subsidiary because they believe that a rainbow on the packaging violates a local law banning homosexual “propaganda”.
The milk brand is called Vesyoly Molochnik, which translates as Gay Milkman, though in Russian the word vesyoly does not suggest homosexuality. The group said that it was objecting to the rainbow, which it saw as the international symbol for the gay movement.
The group said on Friday that it has asked prosecutors to take action because the packaging violated the law passed in St. Petersburg in February, which makes it illegal to spread “propaganda” that could “damage the health, moral and spiritual development of the underaged”. The offence carries a fine of up to 500,000 roubles ($16,100).
Homosexuality, punished with jail terms in the Soviet Union, was decriminalised in Russia in 1993, but anti-gay prejudice runs deep and much of the homosexual community remains largely underground.
“In the near future we are planning to picket the shops and hand out leaflets informing people that the money they spent on this milk will be used to finance gay propaganda,” activist Anatoly Artyukh told the Fontanka.ru website.
The brand is produced by Russian dairy firm Wimm-Bill-Dann, which was acquired by PepsiCo last year. Wimm-Bill-Dann and prosecutors were not immediately available for comment.
A prominent gay rights campaigner was fined in May under the new law, which critics say is smothering freedom of expression. ($1 = 31.0725 Russian roubles)
Reporting by Gleb Bryanski and Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by David Goodman