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Russian runners kiss on the winners podium at competition in Moscow

By CNN Staff
August 20, 2013 -- Updated 1945 GMT (0345 HKT)
 (L-R)Gold medalist Tatyana Firova and Kseniya Ryzhova of Russia kiss on the podium during the medal ceremony for the Women's 4x400 metres Relay during the IAAF World Athletics Championships Moscow.
(L-R)Gold medalist Tatyana Firova and Kseniya Ryzhova of Russia kiss on the podium during the medal ceremony for the Women's 4x400 metres Relay during the IAAF World Athletics Championships Moscow.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The athletes kiss after taking gold in the women's 4x400 meter relay
  • Was it a celebratory kiss? Or was it a political statement?
  • The kiss comes at a highly charged moment for gay rights in Russia

(CNN) -- When is a kiss not just a kiss?

It's not always clear.

Russian athletes Kseniya Ryzhova and Yulia Guschina kissed each other over the weekend on the winners podium after taking gold in the women's 4x400 meter relay at the World Athletics Championships in Moscow.

A photographer captured the moment, which was broadcast by media outlets around the world.

Was it just a celebratory kiss? Or was it a political statement?

The athletes have not said.

But their kiss came at a highly charged moment for gay rights in Russia, which recently implemented an anti-gay propaganda law.

The law, which bars the public discussion of gay rights and relationships anywhere children might hear, has led to calls to boycott the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

U.S. runner Nick Symmonds blasts Russia on gay rights

Gay rights campaigners have drawn parallels between Moscow's actions and Nazi Germany's persecution of Jews or apartheid in South Africa.

Russia, meanwhile, insists that its law barring "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors" is not discriminatory but is intended to protect children.

Almost three-quarters of Russians said homosexuality should not be accepted by society, while just 16% said it should be accepted, a recent Pew Research Center survey of global attitudes revealed.

By comparison, 33% of people surveyed in the United States said homosexuality should not be accepted by society, while 60% said it should. In Britain, only 18% opposed accepting homosexuality, with 76% saying it should be accepted.

Russian athlete defends Russia's anti-gay propaganda

CNN's Dana Ford and Laura Smith-Spark contributed to this report.

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