Nearly a quarter of a million people have signed a petition calling on world leaders to hold Russia to account for a draft law in St Petersburg which threatens to silence its gay community.

The draft law would punish the promotion of LGBT lifestyles in public alongside paedophilia in Russia’s second largest city.

The US and UK Governments have already issued statements expressing concern that the new fines would severely limit the freedom of expression and assembly by LGBT people.

Konstantin Dolgov, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law, said those statements were “inappropriate and inconsistent with the practice of interstate relations”.

Now, 246,245 people have put their name to a letter organised by AllOut.org, which has been delivered to the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs, Baroness Catherine Asthon and the Presidents of its LGBT Rights Intergroup, Michael Cashman and Ulrike Lunacek.

Michael Cashman and Ulrike Lunacek said: “We warmly welcome Catherine Ashton’s assurance that she will raise this issue directly with the Russian Prime Minister.

“The issue of equal rights for LGBT people and freedom of expression (as well as fair elections!) is very dear to all Europeans—and Russians are Europeans too.”

Andre Banks, co-founder of AllOut.org added: “This is a great victory: because hundreds of thousands around the world joined AllOut.org to raise their voice, Russian activists have been heard at the highest level of the international community.

“But we need to continue the fight, and stay mobilized with our friends in Russia until this homophobic bill is repealed.”

A vote on the bill which was due to take place at the city legislature on 30 November did not take place.

Meanwhile, Russia is experiencing widespread civil unrest. Many thousands of public protesters allege widespread election fraud after polls at the weekend, calling for them to be held again.

Refusing to negotiate with protesters, Konstantin Kosachyov, an MP for Vladimir Putin’s United Russia, told Reuters: “With all respect for the people who came out to protest, they are not a political party.”