Former BP boss Lord Browne, who recently suggested the oil giant could send gay staff to countries like Russia, has now said he doesn’t think Vladimir Putin is anti-gay, but just a “pragmatist”.

The former British Petroleum CEO said the company could send gay employees into countries like Russia which have anti-gay laws.

Russian President Vladimir Putin last year signed a bill into law which bans the “promotion of non-traditional relationships” to minors.

In his new book, The Glass Closet, Lord Browne risked dividing the gay community over attempting to explain Vladimir Putin’s stance on gay rights.

“To me, Russia’s anti-gay legislation is more about political posturing than it is about a sincere disgust for gay people,” he writes.

“As others have pointed out, it is likely he is seeking to divert attention from other restrictive laws, passed at the end of 2011 in the aftermath of mass protests, that more broadly limit civil rights. In an echo of persecutions of the past, the homosexual minority is being used as a pawn in the pursuit of power,” he continues.

Stonewall’s Richard Lane responded, saying: “Attacks on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people are often the ‘canary in the coal mine’ ahead of a broader crackdown. Whatever Mr Putin’s motives, the results are devastating to those fighting for fundamental human rights.”

The Independent reports that Lord Browne said he was in “total agreement” with the statement by Stonewall.

Some have pointed out that during his time at BP, Lord Browne met regularly with Putin, giving BP access to Russian oil.

In the book, announced last year, he also encourages gay and lesbian staff to come out early, and states that businesses should work towards becoming more accepting, and as a result will become more productive.

He writes: “I wish I had been brave enough to come out during my tenure as chief executive of BP.”

The 65-year-old crossbench peer resigned from BP in 2007 as a direct result of revelations connected to his sexual orientation.

Lord Browne was forced to step down as chief executive of the oil giant after it emerged that he had lied to the High Court about where he met a former lover who was planning to take details of their relationship to the press.