Canada's foreign ministry has warned gay travellers to "tread carefully" in St. Petersburg as the city's law banning homosexual "propaganda" comes into force, the National Post newspaper reports.
The legislation, signed by St. Petersburg's governor earlier this month, came amid calls by Orthodox Church officials for anti-gay legislaton to be rolled out nationwide.
"Canadians are advised to avoid displaying affection in public, as homosexuals can be targets of violence," the Department of Foreign Affairs said. “Homosexuality is legal, though some still strongly disapprove of it.”
The country's Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird expressed on Friday he deep concern about the law, which "runs contrary to core Canadian values of freedom of speech, of human rights and the rule of law."
The law imposes fines of between 5,000 rubles and 500,000 rubles ($170 and $17,000) for "public actions aimed at promoting sodomy, lesbianism, bisexualism, and transgenderism" among minors.
Similar bans are already in effect in the southern Astrakhan region and the central Ryazan and Kostroma regions.
Homosexuality was decriminalized in Russia in 1993, although homophobia remains widespread. A 2010 survey by the independent pollster Levada Center showed that 74 percent of Russians thought gays and lesbians were "amoral" and "mentally defective," while only 45 percent said they should enjoy the same rights as all other Russians.