Russia’s powerful Orthodox Church has proposed a referendum on banning homosexuality.

On Friday, spokesman Vsevolod Chaplin pointed to polls showing more than a third of Russians view homosexuality as an illness.

“There is no question that society should discuss this issue since we live in a democracy,” Mr Chaplin told the online edition of the pro-government Izvestia daily.

“For this reason, it is precisely the majority of our people and not some outside powers that should decide what should be a criminal offence and what should not.

“I am convinced that such sexual contacts should be completely excluded from the life of our society,” he added.

“If we manage to do this through moral pressure, all the better. But if we need to revert to assistance from the law, then let us ask the people if they are ready for this.”

Some two-thirds of Russians describe themselves as Orthodox Christians.

Russia decriminalised same-sex sexual activity in 1993. However, following last year’s decision of the Russian Parliament to pass legalisation banning gay “propaganda”, it’s feared that the country could be edging closer to reintroducing a complete ban on homosexuality.

On Wednesday, Russian sitcom actor and businessman Ivan Okhlobystin announced he had written an open letter to President Vladimir Putin, urging him to restore Soviet-era laws banning homosexuality.

The 47-year-old is known for his appearance in the Russian show ‘Interny’, which is directly influenced by the American show ‘Scrubs’.

In December, the actor proposed burning all gay people alive in an oven whilst also calling them “faggots”.

Attempting to dismiss concerns about LGBT athletes attending February’s Winter Olympics, President Putin in November declared he was against “hatred” towards people of a “non-traditional sexual orientation” – whilst continuing to support the country’s homophobic legislation.