Obama meets with Russian gay rights advocates
September 6, 2013 -- Updated 1942 GMT (0342 HKT)
The issue of Russian gay rights draws protesters this week at the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation in Madrid.
- President Barack Obama is in St. Petersburg, Russia, for the G20 summit meeting
- He has criticized a Russian law limiting public discussion of gay rights
- The U.S. and Russia also disagree on issues such as Syria and Edward Snowden
- Obama and Vladimir Putin briefly exchanged words on Thursday
(CNN) -- President Barack Obama met with leaders of several Russian social activist groups Friday, an event that likely touched on the sensitive subject of gay rights in the nation amid tensions over Syria.
Earlier this year, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law passed by parliament that bans the public discussion of gay rights and relationships where children might hear it. Violators can be fined and, if they are foreigners, deported.
Obama, who has advocated gay rights and same-sex marriage, has said that "nobody's more offended than me" by the Russian law.
In connecting with the nine activists, Obama spoke about his own foray into politics.
"I got my start as a community organizer, somebody who was working in what would be called an NGO in the international community," he said. "I got elected president by engaging people at a grass-roots level."
He further called the activists' work "critically important" to open society.
"I'm very proud of their work," Obama said. "Part of good government is making sure we're creating a space for civil society."
Gay journalist punks Russian TV
Victory kiss or gay rights protest?
Russia will enforce anti-gay law
Critics say the Russian law is so vague that anyone can be prosecuted for wearing a rainbow T-shirt or holding hands in public with someone of the same sex.
At the event Friday in Russia, Obama met with representatives of groups that support a range of causes, including media freedom, protection of the environment and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.
The controversy over the law is one of several disputes between the United States and Russia, including the question of possible military action against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Moscow's decision to shelter National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.
Obama and Putin met briefly Thursday at the Group of 20 summit meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia, shaking hands and exchanging a few words. Officials said the two leaders could have a longer meeting on the margins of the event.
Obama had previously canceled a summit meeting with Putin scheduled around the G20 event after Russia gave temporary asylum to Snowden, whom the United States wants to prosecute for leaking documents about NSA surveillance programs. It said at the time that considerations on a variety of issues went into the decision to cancel the meeting.
Read: 3 issues that have chilled U.S.-Russia ties
Read: Why Russia's Sochi Olympics are a battleground for gay rights
Part of complete coverage on
December 5, 2013 -- Updated 2300 GMT (0700 HKT)
April 27, 1994: Nelson Mandela's crowning moment and the day South Africa held its first elections for citizens of every race.
He was imprisoned for life but that did not quiet him. Nelson Mandela became South Africa's first black president, and an icon and inspiration.
December 6, 2013 -- Updated 0319 GMT (1119 HKT)
His was a great sense of humor, with a dry wit and remarkable ability to render someone speechless with a well-placed one-liner.
December 5, 2013 -- Updated 1625 GMT (0025 HKT)
Mohammed Jamjoon interviews the American performer who stunned the Arab world by singing in Arabic.
December 6, 2013 -- Updated 1252 GMT (2052 HKT)
He was loved and admired the world over, profiled in books and movies. Here are 10 surprising facts you probably didn't know about Mandela.
December 5, 2013 -- Updated 1532 GMT (2332 HKT)
"Sometimes it just takes one incident to galvanize a society," says CNN's Sumnima Udas.
December 5, 2013 -- Updated 1426 GMT (2226 HKT)
Drones hover like a bee, flap like a bird and bounce like a ball. These awesome flying robots are taking unmanned flight in new directions.
December 5, 2013 -- Updated 1225 GMT (2025 HKT)
The mysterious "catacomb saints" were venerated by the Catholic Church and encrusted with gold and jewels -- before disappearing for centuries.
December 5, 2013 -- Updated 1315 GMT (2115 HKT)
The KAZA conservation area is working to make it easier to cross borders.
December 5, 2013 -- Updated 1256 GMT (2056 HKT)
He started his first business venture with capital of just $200 but today, he is one of Liberia's most prominent businessmen.
December 5, 2013 -- Updated 0009 GMT (0809 HKT)
North Korea is showing no signs of scaling back its fearsome labor camp system, says human rights group Amnesty International.
December 5, 2013 -- Updated 1051 GMT (1851 HKT)
Meet 24-year-old Marita Cheng: the talented technician bringing robots to your home.
December 6, 2013 -- Updated 0304 GMT (1104 HKT)
Japanese blogger Keisuke Jinushi started the "hitori date" (one-man date) blog two years ago.
Today's five most popular stories