For Valentine’s Day on February 14, people around the world united to send Russian President Vladimir Putin a special Valentine’s kiss. Activists from cities around the world have been protesting in order to send the message to Russia that love can conquer hatred and fear.
To promote the event, photoshopped images of Putin kissing Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev were posted around the internet.
In London, near the Russian Embassy, there will be a LGBT carnival with samba music and drag artists. Some protesters will also be mocking the Russian president by wearing Putin masks.
In a Beijing protest, behind a rainbow banner that read “To Russia with Love,” a dozen activists cheered as couples kissed in front of a countdown clock for the Sochi Winter Olympics outside the embassy’s tall walls.
“Love is better than hate,” said LGBT activist Xu Bin, the director of Common Language, a gay rights advocacy group in Beijing, China. Xu said the protest was a meaningful way to celebrate Valentine’s Day and China’s traditional Lantern Festival, which also fell on Feb. 14 this year.
“Putin has a very bad attitude towards gays, who have to live with the threat of violence,” said Xiao Tie, executive director of the Beijing Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Center, referring to the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin. “Russia still needs some education on diversity. That is the reason for today’s advocacy mission.”
UK activist Peter Tatchell, who is organizing the protest alongside Lush, All Out, and London Roller Girls, described the protest as the perfect way of keeping up pressure on the Russian government and show support for LGBT Russians.
“We don’t want Putin to think that now the Olympics have started the protests are over,” he said. “Let’s keep highlighting the terrible things happening in Russia and support the heroic Russian activists—gay and straight—who are defending human rights. Freedom of expression for all.”