With tensions between the United States and Russia already strained to the breaking point, President Barack Obama is preparing to press Russian President Vladimir Putin even more by meeting with Russian gay rights groups and human rights activists during this week's trip to St. Petersburg for the G-20 summit.
According to BuzzFeed
, rights groups, including Coming Out, a St. Petersburg-based LGBT group, have been invited to meet with Obama on Thursday.
Human rights activists Lev Ponomarev and Lyudmila Alexeyeva, and legal aid non-governmental organization director Pavel Chikov have also been invited.
BuzzFeed also reported that the LGBT Network was also invited to the meeting at the St. Petersburg Crowne Plaza Hotel, along with Golos, a Russian election monitoring group that had received U.S. aid but was forced to disband earlier this summer under a new Russian "foreign agents" law.
The meetings are scheduled during a trip that has already been billed as highly controversial, given the two nations' opposite positions on Syria and Putin's recent decision to allow former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden to remain in Russia for at least a year, despite U.S. efforts to take him into custody for leaking top secret information on NSA data collection programs.
Obama and Putin had been scheduled to hold a one-on-one meeting during the G-20 summit, but Obama canceled that meeting after Snowden was granted temporary asylum in Russia.
The meeting with the human rights groups is not the first time President Obama has met with Russian opposition activists. He last met with non-governmental organizations representing various groups in 2009. But Thursday's meeting comes as the Russian government is cracking down on human rights groups, which it has accused of being in the pay of the U.S. government, BuzzFeed reports.
It also comes in the wake of Russia passing a new anti-LGBT law, which prohibits the promotion or display of "untraditional sexual relations."
When Obama was asked about the law during an appearance last month on the NBC's "The Tonight Show" with Jay Leno, he replied that he has "no patience for countries that try to treat gays or lesbians or transgender persons in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them."
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