MOSCOW (AP) — Russian women and visiting World Cup soccer fans: be fruitful and multiply.
After a lawmaker caused a backlash on social media by advising Russian women against getting involved with soccer fans from different countries and races, one of her colleagues is urging love and procreation during the tournament.
"The more love stories we have connected to the world championship, the more people from different countries fall in love, the more children are born, the better," state news agency Tass quoted parliament member Mikhail Degtyaryov as telling reporters Thursday.
Degtyaryov appeared to be doing damage control after lawmaker Tamara Pletnyova warned Russian women Wednesday to think twice before entering into casual relationships with foreign tourists because they may end up rearing their children alone. Pletnyova, who heads a parliamentary committee on children and families, also suggested that Russian women should marry local men and said that children born from mixed-race marriages are unhappy.
"We should have our own children. These children then go on to suffer, you know that well. They've suffered since the Soviet times. You are lucky if they are from the same race, but if they are from a difference race, then it's even more," she said, cutting herself short in the end.
The comments prompted criticism on social media, with some saying that Pletnyova's views were racist and archaic.
Degtyaryov, who heads a parliamentary committee overseeing sports, promoted a totally opposite view Thursday.
"Many years from now these children will remember that their parents' love story began during the World Cup in Russia in 2018," Degtyaryov said, according to Tass. "I hope to God that there would be more love stories, more children, more mixed unions."
"We welcome fans from all countries, skin colors, all religions, all genders and all (sexual) orientations," Degtyaryov added.
The Kremlin weighed in, reluctantly, on the controversy.
Asked about Pletnyova's comments, President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters Thursday that the Kremlin has nothing to do with the matter.
"As for our Russian women, they will make their own judgment," Peskov said. "They are the best women in the world."
Peskov noted that spectators attending matches receive special World Cup identification cards that have the phrase "Say no to racism" written on them.
"This is probably the best way to characterize the atmosphere of this holiday and Russia's approach to it," Peskov added.