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Russian retailer says sorry for ‘unprofessionalism’ after health food advert featuring lesbian vegan parents sparks row in country

Russian retailer says sorry for ‘unprofessionalism’ after health food advert featuring lesbian vegan parents sparks row in country
A popular chain of upmarket Russian grocery stores that prides itself on fresh and healthy fare has issued a formal apology after running an advertisement that featured a lesbian couple and their children talking about veganism.

On Sunday, the Moscow-based retail giant VkusVill released a statement in which it acknowledged that the ad, part of a recent publicity campaign, “had hurt the feelings of a large number of our customers, employees, partners and suppliers.”

Signed by the company’s founder, Andrey Krivenko, and its senior leadership, the open letter said the firm “regretted” the decision to publish the clip and blamed it on “the unprofessionalism of individual employees.” The firm’s goal, it said, was “to make sure our customers receive fresh and tasty products every day, not to publish any political or social views. In no way did we want to become a source of strife and hatred.”

Also on rt.com Russian court throws out case over Dolce & Gabbana adverts featuring women kissing, after MP withdraws ‘gay propaganda’ law appeal

The short video, which was shared on the Instagram page of one of the women featured, showed partners Yuma and Zhenya, along with their two daughters, Mila and Alina. In it, they discuss their views on ethical veganism and fair-trade produce, and their work supporting LGBT young people facing personal problems after coming out.

In an earlier statement, VkusVill said, “We believe not featuring the families of our real customers would be hypocritical.” At present, it continued, “family is blood ties or a stamp in a passport,” before urging, “Let’s rethink this. In the 21st century, it’s really the people who love us, those who will always shield us, people who we go through life with.”

Russia introduced a law in 2013 that bans the “promotion of non-traditional sexual values among minors” as part of a bill the government said would protect children from abuse and ensure family values were not eroded. However, detractors, including a large number of Western lobby groups, insist it’s part of an attack on LGBT rights.

Defending the measures, President Vladimir Putin argued that the law targets only “gay propaganda,” and had “nothing to do with persecuting individuals for their sexual orientation.” Speaking to journalists a year after the passage of the bill, the Russian leader said, “I don’t care about a person’s orientation, and I myself know some people who are gay. We are on friendly terms. I’m not prejudiced in any way.”

Last month, a court in St. Petersburg, the country’s second city, threw out a hearing on whether advertisements published by Italian fashion house Dolce & Gabbana fell foul of the rules. Featuring two women kissing, the Instagram campaign was intended to support a charity that provides suicide prevention and crisis support for young LGBT people. The case was dropped, however, when prosecutors declined to file the necessary paperwork before the deadline, and after an MP rescinded his request that the ads be investigated.

Later in June, prosecutors in the Baltic Sea city blasted police officers who arrested a number of young people at an anime cosplay party. Organizers called the police after an attendee at the private event unfurled a rainbow LGBT Pride flag. According to local media, an armed response unit arrived at the premises and detained all the teenagers present on suspicion of their having breached rules about the promotion to minors of non-traditional sexual relationships.

The Prosecutor's Office of the Central District of St. Petersburg ruled that the detentions were unlawful and the teenagers had not fallen foul of the law. Instead, officials demanded that the officers responsible for the detentions are brought to justice.

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