PETERSBURG, Russia | Fri Sep 20, 2013 5:48pm BST ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) – U.S. pop singer Selena Gomez has scrapped two concerts in Russia after falling foul of new visa rules which critics say can be used to keep out Western artists who promote gay rights. The concert organisers said Gomez, who sang “Come And Get It” and supports gay rights, pulled out of the planned performances in St. Petersburg and Moscow next week when it became clear she would not be able to secure a visa in time. They blamed the delay on the new rules, which they said were prompted by official concern over two concerts in Russia at which Madonna and Lady Gaga defended gay rights, and a gig in neighbouring Ukraine where the lead singer of U.S. group Bloodhound Gang stuffed a Russian flag down his trousers. “The situation is a result of the scandals over the Madonna, Lady Gaga and Bloodhound Gang concerts, after which the Russian authorities changed procedures for issuing visas to foreign musical and artistic groups,” said the promoters, the Russian Entertainment Academy. Foreign artists can no longer receive visas by invitation from the Culture Ministry under the aegis of cultural links if they come to Russia to conduct commercial activity, according to state-run news agency RIA. It said the procedures were changed following complaints from Vitaly Milonov, a St. Petersburg legislator who criticised Madonna and Lady Gaga and has campaigned against gay rights. Performing in St. Petersburg last year in black lingerie with the words “No Fear” scrawled on her back, Madonna attacked a city law promoted by Milonov that imposed fines for spreading homosexual “propaganda”. Lada Gaga also denounced the law on stage in St Petersburg last year, declaring: “Tonight, this is my house Russia.
Putin on Thursday maintained that the law bans only “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations among minors.” He argued that it is “no infringement on the rights of sexual minorities” and insisted that European laws allowing gay marriage contribute to population declines. The Russian law has prompted calls for boycotts of the 2014 Winter Olympics hosted by Russia in Sochi. Putin said while some European nations have allowed gay marriages, “the Europeans are dying out … and gay marriages don’t produce children.” “Do you want to survive by accepting immigrants?” Putin said. “Society can’t absorb such a number of immigrants. Let us make our own choice, as we see it for our country.” The new Russian law imposes fines of up to 5,000 rubles ($150) for individuals and 1 million rubles ($30,000) for organizations, plus stiffer penalties for propaganda on the Web or in the media. Foreigners who violate the law are also subject to fines, plus prison sentences of up to 15 days, deportation and denial of re-entry into Russia. The law does not outlaw gay sex or explicitly ban participation in gay pride parades or promotion of LGBT equality online. However, the definition of “propaganda” is vague and wearing a rainbow flag on the street or writing in a certain way about gay relationships on Facebook could be interpreted as propaganda. Putin made the comment at a conference of Russia experts in Valdai in northwestern Russia. He also made a joking reference to his friend, former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who was convicted in June of paying for sex with a minor and pressuring public officials to cover it up. “Berlusconi has faced a trial for living with women. They (prosecutors) wouldn’t touch him if he were gay,” Putin said.