Russia's embassy in London has issued a warning to parents who send their kids to summer language courses in the UK, saying some had been "coarsely" treated, denied food or put up with "homosexual families."
“The Embassy’s Consular Section receives complaints from citizens of the Russian Federation…children had been dealt with coarsely in host families, and several have been refused food,” diplomats said in their Russian-language warning.
"There have been cases of children being expelled from school because of a minor violation; there are examples of children being put up with families of homosexuals,” the embassy added.
Diplomats have blamed the companies organizing the trips for the negative experiences Russian schoolchildren have had in the UK, and cautioned parents to be vigilant in choosing reputable firms.
The embassy said it had intervened in each case of mistreatment to ensure children were moved to new families.
An embassy spokesman told The Daily Telegraph: "Most visits are trouble-free, but the embassy has had to deal with several complaints on different grounds." The official refused to elaborate.
Russian and UK gay activists strongly condemned the embassy’s warning.
“Russian officials and homophobes are afraid of this topic because they know if they play on the fears of society it will be easy to manipulate opinion,” Yury Gavrikov, the head of campaign group Ravnopravie, told Gay Star News website.
“If LGBT people are kept hidden then there will be no problems and there is no need for solutions. It's easier to hide behind the social phobia,” Gavrikov added.
On his Facebook page, Russian gay rights activist Nikolai Baev slammed the embassy's warning as proof of the Russian Foreign Ministry's “official homophobia in action.”
Andy Wasley from the UK-based gay equality group Stonewall, told Gay Star News that Russia’s government routinely persecutes its 8.5 million gay people.
“So, if true, the embassy’s ‘warning’ about families with same-sex parents here in Britain is unsurprising,” he said.
'Unfortunately it means many Russian young people might be denied an opportunity to see life in a country that truly respects differences and where young people from all kinds of backgrounds are protected from discrimination.’