US President Barack Obama met for more than an hour late
Friday with representatives from Russia human rights groups, including
homosexual rights activists.
The meeting, after the conclusion of a summit of G20 leaders, follows the Russian parliament's passage in June of a law that bans "gay propaganda" directed at minors. Activists warned that the measure makes lesbians, gays and bisexuals more vulnerable to harassment and physical attacks.
During the more than one-hour meeting, Obama said that their advocacy by human rights groups in Russia was "critically important" to an open society.
"I'm very proud of their work," he said. "Part of good government is making sure we're creating a space for civil society."
The nine Russians in attendance included representatives from the gay rights movement, as well as activists for free speech, children's rights and environmental protection.
"I got my start as a community organizer, somebody who was working in what would be called an NGO in the international community," Obama said. "I got elected president by engaging people at a grass roots level."
Last month, Obama said that he opposed calls for a US boycott of the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, over Moscow's hostile policies toward homosexuals.
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