The US embassy in Moscow has defied Russian Government by flying the rainbow flag of the LGBTI pride movement on Thursday at its main building on a central thoroughfare despite Russia's law against public promotion of homosexuality.
The flying of the six-colour flag, created by American artist and gay rights activist Gilbert Baker, coincided with Russia opening polls for a referendum seeking to enshrine a ban on same-sex marriage in the country's constitution.
"LGBTI rights are human rights. Human rights are universal," the US embassy said in a statement. The term LGBTI stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex.
While same-sex marriage is legal in the United States, public promotion of homosexuality is a crime in Russia under federal legislation signed into law by President Vladimir Putin in 2013.
Russia: "Prohibited by law"
The US embassy said it was displaying the rainbow flag to honour the anniversary of it first being hoisted at a gay pride parade in San Francisco more than four decades ago, in 1978.
Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov responded to the display by saying that "any occurrence of propaganda of non-traditional sexual minorities in our country is prohibited by law," according to comments carried by the news agency Interfax.