A senior Trump administration official has sparked concerns over a plan to waive sanctions against extremist Russian politician Dmitry Rogozin to allow him to visit the US.
Politico reports that Jim Bridenstine, a former Republican lawmaker appointed by Trump to head NASA, has extended an invite to Vladimir Putin’s former Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin to visit the space agency in Houston, Texas.
Rogozin is officially barred from entering the US under sanctions extended under the Obama administration in 2014 against key individuals involved in Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea.
But the ultranationalist politician, who currently heads the Russian space agency Roscosmos, will reportedly have the sanctions against him temporarily lifted for the visit to NASA and a speech at Rice University.
Politico notes that Rogozin, who was Deputy Prime Minister of Russia from 2011 until May 2018, has an extreme record of attacking LGBT+ rights.
Serving during the period in which Putin signed the country’s controversial gay propaganda law, Rogozin frequently used social media to stoke hatred towards LGBT+ people in Russia.
Russia’s former Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin ‘stoked hatred’ towards LGBT+ people
The politician branded Madonna a “whore” in 2012 after she expressed her support for LGBT+ rights ahead of a concert in St Petersburg.
As anti-LGBT activists threatened to shut down the Madonna concert, Rogozin tweeted: “Every former whore seeks to lecture everyone on morality as she gets older. Especially during tours and gigs abroad.
“Either take off your cross, or put on your knickers.”
When drag queen Conchita Wurst won the Eurovision Song Contest in 2014, Rogozin claimed it “showed supporters of European integration their European future: a bearded girl.”
When Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics came out as gay in 2014, Rogozin tweeted: “Is that his point of pride? Although if you’ve got nothing else to be proud of, you can be proud of this, too.
“I didn’t know that gay is a synonym for Russophobe.”
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The Deputy Prime Minister also claimed in 2015 that the West would “fall under the weight of Islamic State and gays.”
Decision to lift sanctions sparks concerns
The decision to extend the invite to Rogozin has caused alarm, even given the cooperation between NASA and Roscosmos that has survived decades of frosty relations.
Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, told Politico that “it absolutely sends the wrong message to lift sanctions, even temporarily.”
A NASA spokesperson said: “Planning for a potential visit by the Director-General is still underway.
“The US/ Russian relationship in space dates back to the 1970s. NASA has historically invited the head of the Russian space agency to visit the United States.
“Following this precedent, and Administrator Bridenstine’s October visit to Russia to participate in crew launch activities to the International Space Station, NASA invited the Director-General of Roscosmos to visit NASA facilities in the United States and discuss our ongoing space-related cooperation.”
Bridenstine’s nomination as NASA administrator was opposed by LGBT groups, who cited his long record of anti-LGBT beliefs espoused in Congress.
GLAAD raised issue with Bridenstine “extensive anti-LGBTQ record,” noting the lawmaker had described President Obama’s transgender inclusive non-discrimination guidance as “lawless federal bullying.”
Bridenstine has also called for the repeal of marriage equality, saying it runs “contrary to millennia of human experience.”