Latvian distiller owner tries to defuse boycott

RIGA, Latvia (AP) — Many gay bars in North America have stopped selling the famous Stolichnaya vodka brand, to protest Russia’s crackdown on the gay community.

But now, the maker of the vodka is joining forces with the leading gay rights group in the former Soviet republic of Latvia, to say that the boycott is misplaced.

Stolichnaya is a historic Russian brand, and some of its ingredients come from Russia. But nearly all of the Stoli that is sold in the west is made in Latvia — which is part of NATO and the European Union.

The perception that it is Russian is what prompted the boycott over Russia’s recent anti-gay moves. Russia recently enacted a law banning so-called “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations.” And there are hefty fines for those holding gay pride rallies.

The Stoli.com website proclaims that it stands “strong and proud” with the global gay community against what it calls “the attitude and actions of the Russian government.”

But one gay rights group says the company is still a proper target for a boycott. Queer Nation says Stolichnaya was silent on the anti-gay measures until after the boycott was announced.

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APPHOTO CARC101: From left to right, Michael Niemeyer, Matthew Ervin, Alfredo Diaz, Richard Grossi, Rodney Scott and council member John Duran empty Russian vodka bottles into a gutter during a news conference on Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013 in West Hollywood, Calif. Bar owners joined with West Hollywood city officials to announce a boycott of Russian vodkas as part of a protest that has stretched across the county in opposition to anti-gay laws recently signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu) (1 Aug 2013)

<<APPHOTO CARC101 (08/01/13)££

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