Ahead of a protest planned to take place outside his concert in central London, Russian conductor Valery Gergiev has said: “It is wrong to suggest that I have ever supported anti-gay legislation”.
Last Thursday, Mr Tatchell attempted to disrupt the opening night of Gergiev’s concert by walking on stage and telling the audience: “Valery Gergiev is a friend, ally and supporter of the Russian tyrant Vladimir Putin, whose regime is arresting peaceful protesters and opposition leaders.
“Gergiev defends the new homophobic law that persecutes gay Russians. He sided with Putin against Pussy Riot. I ask you to oppose tyranny and show your support for the Russian people.”
Mr Tatchell was then taken off stage by security staff.
According to the classical music blog Orpheus Complex, in September, Gergiev spoke to the Dutch newspaper Volkskrant and gave a robust defence of Russia’s anti-gay laws.
He said: “In Russia we do everything we can to protect children from paedophiles. This law is not about homosexuality, it targets paedophilia. But I have too busy a schedule to explore this matter in detail.”
In a statement released on Wednesday Gergiev said: “I am aware of the gay rights protest that took place at the Barbican last week prior to my concert with the LSO. I have said before that I do not discriminate against anyone, gay or otherwise, and never have done, and as head of the Mariinsky Theatre this is our policy.
“It is wrong to suggest that I have ever supported anti-gay legislation and in all my work I have upheld equal rights for all people. I am an artist and have for over three decades worked with tens of thousands of people in dozens of countries from all walks of life and many of them are indeed my friends.
“I collaborate with and support all my colleagues in the endeavour for music and art. This is my focus as a conductor, musician, artist and as artistic and general director of the Mariinsky Theatre and principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra.”
In response, Peter Tatchell said: “While his affirmation of personal non-discrimination is welcome, Gergiev’s statement does not renounce his support for President Putin, whose regime does discriminate against gay people. It also arrests opposition leaders and peaceful protesters on trumped up charges.
“Gergiev has sided with Putin against Pussy Riot and defended the anti-gay law, reportedly falsely claiming that it is solely concerned with paedophilia. His statement looks like PR spin and a damage limitation exercise.
“Our protest against Gergiev is not just about homophobic persecution in Russia. It is also about his support for a president who has presided over the wider suppression of democracy and human rights.”