Moscow, March 23 (IANS/RIA Novosti) Russia's largest search engine Yandex has made US pop star Madonna's new album available for download three days before its worldwide release, the company said Friday.
The album, MDNA, is also available in Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan as a result of a deal between Yandex and the Russian branch of Universal Music.
It will be streamed online on Yandex's music site, Yandex Music, from March 23 through 26, and will be available to download for the first 100,000 listeners, the firm said in a press release.
The announcement comes just a day after Madonna condemned a new law in St. Petersburg banning "gay propaganda", pledging to speak out against the bill at her concert there in August.
"I will come to St Petersburg to speak up for the gay community and to give strength and inspiration to anyone who is or feels oppressed," the 53-year-old singer said in comments posted on her Facebook page. "I'm a freedom fighter."
Vitaly Milonov, a deputy with the ruling United Russia party and the legislation's principal architect, said he would personally attend the gig to watch for any violation of the law, which imposes fines of between 5,000 rubles and 500,000 rubles ($170 and $17,000) for "public actions aimed at promoting sodomy, lesbianism, bisexualism, and transgenderism" among minors.
However, gay rights activists have vowed to hold protests if Madonna goes ahead with the St. Petersburg concert to "draw international attention to the problem of hypocrisy amongst western pop stars for the sake of massive profits in Russia".
Homosexuality was decriminalized in Russia in 1993, although homophobia remains widespread. A 2010 survey by the independent pollster Levada Center showed that 74 percent of Russians thought gays and lesbians were "amoral" and "mentally defective", while only 45 percent said they should enjoy the same rights as heterosexuals.
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