The Scottish Government has released a statement saying it opposes Russia’s anti-gay laws, after First Minister Alex Salmond was criticised for making favourable comments towards Vladimir Putin.
The Scottish National Party leader has resisted calls for an apology after saying the Russian President’s patriotism was “entirely reasonable”.
Critics say that ‘patriotism’ has been used to justify military action in Ukraine and state-sponsored homophobic persecution through anti-gay censorship laws.
At the launch of the SNP’s European election campaign on Wednesday, Scotland’s First Minister said his remarks had been misunderstood and he would not be retracting them.
He said: “When people see the comments I made, they will see that they’re perfectly reasonable.
“I said I deprecated Russian actions in Ukraine and also its human rights record.
“I pointed out that the western press underestimated Putin and that’s obviously true.”
Mr Salmond encountered a storm of protest after stating he admired “certain aspects” of President Putin’s politics and his restoration “of a substantial part of Russian pride” in an interview conducted on 14 March for the May edition of the men’s magazine GQ with Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s former director of communications.
The leaders of Scotland’s three main opposition parties have now written to leaders of the Ukrainian community in Scotland to “disassociate” themselves from the First Minister’s remarks.
Prime Minister David Cameron, Foreign Secretary William Hague and Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander have also been critical of the SNP leader, along with human rights group Amnesty International.
A spokesman for the First Minister stressed Mr Salmond made clear in the interview that he “disapproves ‘of a range of Russian actions’.”
The spokesman added: ”The Scottish Government is entirely opposed to the Russian Government’s stance on human rights, homosexuality and indeed the illegal annexation of Crimea.”
It prescribes fines for providing information about homosexuality to people under the age of 18 – ranging from 4,000 roubles (£78) for an individual to 1m roubles (£19,620) for organisations.