Organizer Regrets Same-Sex Kissing Performance At Crimea Youth Festival

The organizer of a youth theater workshop in the Russian-controlled territory of Crimea that included a performance featuring same-sex intimacy at a Moscow-funded event has expressed regret for the incident, while denying direct responsibility.

The group Territoria (Territory) said in a June 29 statement that it was unaware of the performance in which several pairs of young women kissed each other and exchanged partners, and two young men imitated kissing.

"We apologize to everyone who to any extent was outraged with that episode," the statement said. However, Territoria said it had not "initiated, discussed, or agreed" to the June 25 performance and "cannot bear direct responsibility" for it.

The performance made waves on social media after it was staged at the annual Tavrida youth festival sponsored by the Russian government in Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula seized by Russia in 2014, near the town of Sudak.

Roskosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin was vocal in his criticism , tweeting that the performance was directed by a "scumbag."

In another tweet, the space agency chief compared the Gogol-Center theater in Moscow to Sodom and Gomorra. The tweet was an apparent reference to Ilya Romashko, who directed the performance and is a student of the prominent theater's director, Kirill Serebrennikov.

Although same-sex relations were decriminalized in Russia in the 1990s, "propagating homosexuality" is a crime under a controversial law endorsed by President Vladimir Putin in 2013.

Putin said at a June 29 press conference in Japan, where he and other leaders were attending the G20 summit, that Russia had a "very calm and open-minded" attitude toward gays and lesbians, while claiming that the LGBT community had been "quite aggressive in imposing its point of view on an overwhelming majority."

The comments came as he and British rock star Elton John sparred over the issue of liberalism, which Putin recently said had "outlived its purpose."

"I strongly disagree with your view that pursuing policies that embrace multicultural and sexual diversity are obsolete in our societies," John said in a statement on June 28.