Russian gay activists said Wednesday they were disappointed with U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton for not raising the issue of anti-gay sentiment during a two-day trip to Russia.

Gay activists hoped Clinton would use the unveiling of a statue of gay icon Walt Whitman on the grounds of the Moscow State University to decry homophobia in the former Soviet Union. Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov also attended the event. Luzhkov has called Gay Pride marches a “satanic gathering,” banning them since 2006.

“Russia is supposed to be a democracy and she said nothing,” gay activist Nikolai Alexeyev told The Associated Press.

At a Tuesday news conference, Alexeyev had urged Clinton to address the issue.

“Hillary Clinton will have a good chance to publicly express her position on gay rights to one of the top homophobic politicians in Europe,” he said, gay Russian website reported.

“I think that no one would understand her silence on the breach of fundamental rights of LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] people in Russia, the day she inaugurates the monument to a gay poet together with the homophobic mayor of Moscow,” he added.

Being gay is not illegal in Russia, but the Russian Orthodox Church has strongly condemned gay rights groups and anti-gay sentiment is widespread.

Gay rights activists say authorities have shut down over 175 gay-related events, including a gay and lesbian film festival last year in St. Petersburg. Officials declared the nightclubs where the films were to be screened fire hazards.

Luzhkov has linked such gay events to the spread of HIV: “We have banned, and will ban, the propaganda of sexual minorities' opinions because they can be one of the factors in the spread of HIV infection,” the mayor said at a December 4, 2008 conference in Moscow titled HIV/AIDS in Developed Countries.

The Whitman statue was placed in the gardens of the university, where in May police – at the direction of Luzhkov – arrested more than 30 gay activists for attempting to hold a banned Gay Pride march. Among the arrested was Chicago-based activist Andy Thayer, who heads the gay rights group Gay Liberation Network.