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Russia puts own spin on International Women's Day

Russia will not play "dangerous gender games", the head of its upper house of parliament said in a vehement attack on sexual minorities in a message marking International Women's Day.

Any expression of LGBTQI identity is almost impossible in Russia, with a "gay propaganda" law banning the distribution of materials on non-traditional relationships among any age group and the promotion of homosexual relationships to children.

There are people with gender "anomalies" but the "tyranny of minorities" cannot happen, said Valentina Matviyenko, a staunch ally of President Vladimir Putin and considered Russia's most powerful woman.

"Men and women are the biological, social and cultural backbones of communities," Matviyenko wrote in a blog on the Council's website.

"Therefore, there are no dangerous gender games in our country and never will be. Not in kindergartens, not in schools, not in education, not in politics, not in lawmaking. Let us leave it to the West to conduct this dangerous experiment on itself."

The Ukraine-born Matviyenko called March 8 one of the "most beloved holidays" in Russia, while politicians and officials rushed with effusive wishes for Women's Day.

"We know how much in life depends on you, our dear women, on your efforts and your spiritual generosity, how much energy you put to care for children, and so that love, comfort and harmony may reign in the family," Putin said in a congratulatory video published on the Kremlin's Telegram channel.

He issued special thanks to female military personnel, saying their courage amazes even the "most hardened fighters".

The International Women's Day holiday was first celebrated in Russia 110 years ago and is one of its most important holidays, next to welcoming the New Year and the Victory Day.

While filled with public and private celebrations, flowers and gifts, it has nothing to do with the feminist movement for protection of women's rights.

The constitution guarantees equal rights for men and women, but Russian women continue to face inequality and are expected to prioritise motherhood over professional development.

Their situation worsened when Russia decriminalised domestic violence in 2017. According to a 2013 RIA news agency study, up to 36,000 women face violence in the family every day.