Yakunin’s Views on Gays Overshadows Conference in Geneva

A rather rambling conference blurb (bear with me) from Russia soft-power outfit the St Andrew the First-Called Foundation:

The contemporary international practice of world order structuring apparently does not correspond to the rational publically acceptable norms required to foster global mega-scale projects. The growing number of public actors, experts and researchers start sharing the view that such requisite ingredients of globalization as “universal human values and rights”, the pre-set standards of tolerance and political correctness (or rather political comfort) are conducive to distortion of factual historical memory and to the entrenchment of a narrow group of beneficiaries of the current transformations. These developments lead to the growing desovereignization of national and international economic and financial processes.

The title of the conference was “European choice: Globalization of Re-Sovereignization”; topics included “Globalization is not only economical process, but the politics aimed at creation of the new world order” and “the historical interaction between the European countries (particularly Switzerland) and Russia is a resource for sustainable cooperation in future”. The event was co-hosted by the Geneva Press Club, whose president, Guy Mettan, is President of the Joint Chamber of Commerce Switzerland-Russia & CIS.

Of course, it’s obvious why Russia’s supporters are sniffing at “pre-set standards of tolerance”, and the media has focused on the host’s inevitable opining on teh gaye; over to Reuters:

Traditional family values need to be supported against activism by the gay minority, and the idea that gays were suppressed in Russia was “a trick”, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday.

“We should not rape nature because of ideological, political or individual preferences,” said Russian Railways boss Vladimir Yakunin, who was hosting a conference in Geneva to promote his foundation, the Endowment for St Andrew the First Called.

Asked if he was afraid of gays or of an open debate about gay marriage, Yakunin drew applause and shouts of “bravo” from the audience with his response.

“Practically, if Reuters, or yourself, will show me the man who gave birth to a child, then the question is obsolete,” he said.

Reuters adds:

A brochure from the conference, on the “sanctity of motherhood”, called for “socially responsible media” to resist attempts to redefine the family, which it said were “an irresponsible manipulation of the most profound parts of the human nature”.

It’s not immediately clear what “the sanctity of motherhood” has to do with “Globalization of Re-Sovereignization” and “sustainable cooperation” between Russia and Switzerland, and I checked to make sure I was reading about the same event. I suspect that “sanctity of motherhood angle” refers to a related programme of that name, which is under the direction of Yakunin’s wife, Natalia Yakunina.

Other participants included Anee-Marie Lizin, Honorary President of the Senate of Belgium, and Walter Schwimmer, Ex-Secretary General of the Council of Europe; Schwimmer is a long-term collaborator with Yakunin, and he Co-Chairs the World Public Forum, which is funded by the St Andrew Foundation.

Yakunin was previously in the news in January, when he attended a Holocaust conference in Prague; the EU Observer said that his presence was “to the great embarrassment of the Czech government”, given his close links with Putin. The Prague Daily Monitor explained that Yakunin was present “at the invitation of the European Jewish Congress”, whose president Moshe Kantor is “a Russian billionaire who reportedly has close links with Putin.” However, the report also noted Yakunin’s links with the Czech Republic’s president, Milos Zeman:

Yakunin is a founder and organiser of the [World Public Forum] Rhodes discussion forum at which President Milos Zeman compared the war in Ukraine to a flu last September.