A homophobic Russian politician has declared the range of stamps produced to commemorate the influential gay artist Tom of Finland as gay “propaganda.”

Vitaly Milonov, who was the politician behind St Petersburg’s anti-gay law said he wants Russia’s postal service to return-to-sender any mail which bears the Tom of Finland stamp.

Speaking to the TASS news agency, he said: “They are basically elements of homosexual propaganda, which is banned in our country.”

“I ask the leadership of Russian Post to pay close attention to this request. In addition, I urge the Finns themselves, our close neighbours, to refrain from using these stamps when sending letters to Russia.”

After the stamps went on sale on in September in Finland, Itella reported that it had received pre-orders from 178 countries, and that the range of stamps were the best selling in its history.

The artist, real name Touko Laaksonen, died in 1991 but remains an influential figure in the gay art scene, and is one of Finland’s most well-known figures.

In August last year, Milanov said that gay people were not “normal” and compared being gay to living “with a dog, with a horse, with a sheep, whatever.”

Human rights groups have criticised the anti-propaganda bill authored by Milanov as “outrageous and incredibly dangerous”.