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Just say ‘nyet’: Vancouver bars boycotting Russian vodka
A growing number of Vancouver bars and restaurants are saying “nyet” to selling Russian products in a silent protest over the country's recent crackdown on gay rights.
Ezra Kish, co-owner of The Cobalt on Main St., said the establishment is pulling Russian booze off the shelves as a message of solidarity.
"We don't have any money; we don't have any political clout... all we got is booze,” Kish told CTV News.
The bar joins establishments across North America that are choosing to boycott alcohol from Russia to protest repressive laws targeting homosexuals leading up to the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, including barring people who are gay from living openly.
"I never thought the booze we sold would be able to send a message but if we're going to pick and choose, we choose to support our family, our clientele,” said Kish.
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson issued a statement Friday admonishing Putin’s human rights infractions.
“I would like to join the millions worldwide who are calling upon Russia to end its violent crackdown on the human rights and free expression of the LGBTQ community ahead of hosting the world in Sochi,” Robertson said.
Popular gay-friendly watering holes in the city’s West End, including the Fountainhead Pub, Oasis and Celebrities, have also joined the boycott and have stopped serving Russian products.
The owners of Sidetrack, a popular gay bar in Chicago, are taking the same stand and it's even received a response from Stolichnaya.
The vodka company said: "We fully support and endorse your objectives to fight against prejudice in Russia."
Russian President Vladimir Putin recently signed laws forbidding same-sex couples from adopting Russian children and banning gay propaganda. That has sparked protests and the government has responded with a heavy hand arresting dozens of activists.
Andy Derleth, Mr. Gay World 2012, told CTV News he had planned a trip to Russia at the end of August but the plans have been put on hold because of safety concerns.
"I think it’s unacceptable for a country in the 21st century to make such steps back,” Derleth said, adding that he has cancelled all public appearances in Russia.
Popular sex advice columnist Dan Savage has taken his support for gay rights to social media, endorsing a boycott and offering his support for Russian people.
And Federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau weighed in on the debate at an appearance in Vancouver Thursday, calling on the government to do more to support gay rights around the world.
"It's a shame to see some places around the world that still don't understand…how to respect people's basic rights,” Trudeau said.
With a report from CTV British Columbia’s Scott Hurst