Vitaly Milonov, city councillor and author of St Petersburg’s homophobic censorship law, has referred to homosexuality as a “bad habit” that can be treated by fasting and prayer.

RT reports during an interview on Russia’s Ekho Moskvy radio show, Mr Milonov, who is a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, said:

“God can send many temptations upon us. But the thing is, this illness is easily treated by fasting and praying.

“I do not know of a single case within the Russian Orthodox Church that a man would not be cured by his sincere repentance in this sin.

He added: “People get rid of it, just like they get rid of kleptomania or, for instance, fornicators.”

St Petersburg’s governor signed into law a bill making it an offence to “promote” LGBT issues in March of this year.

Those who break the law can be fined in excess of 50,000 roubles (£1,070).

Earlier this summer, a group of anti-gay Russian activists announced plans to sue Madonna for $10 million (£ 6.15 million) after they accused the pop star of insulting their feelings when she spoke out in favour of LGBT equality during a concert in the city on August 9.

Hours before her performance, Madonna announced on Facebook that she would be handing out pink wristbands in a sign of support for St Petersburg’s LGBT community.

Mr Milonov also said in March that he would support attempts to prosecute the singer if she went ahead with her demonstration.