Gay rights activists to protest Putin Amsterdam visit

Thousands of gay rights protesters are expected to greet Russian President Vladimir Putin during his visit to Amsterdam on Monday, with rainbow flags flying at half-mast around the Dutch capital.

"More than 3,300 people have signed up for the COC demonstration against the anti-gay law during President Putin's visit to Amsterdam," COC, the world's oldest gay rights group, said in a statement.

Protesters are targeting a bill before the Russian parliament that bans homosexual "propaganda" among minors.

Rights activists and Western governments have condemned the measure, which provides for fines of up to 500,000 roubles (12,500 euros, $15,830) for any "public act" promoting homosexuality or paedophilia.

Putin's visit is centred on trade talks with major partner the Netherlands. He will also attend the opening of an exhibition on Dutch-Russian history at Amsterdam's Hermitage Museum.

The main protest is to be staged outside the Maritime History Museum where Putin will be dining with Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Monday evening.

Rights groups including Amnesty International and MPs have called on Rutte to raise the issue of Russian rights, including of non-governmental organisations, with Putin.

Russian authorities have launched a crackdown on foreign NGOs operating there, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and German think-tanks.

Putin will be arriving from Germany, where he was also met with protests.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday urged Putin to "give a chance" to non-governmental organisations which she described as a "motor of innovation".

Dutch daily De Telegraaf on Saturday published a letter from Putin, in which he said he hoped "to honour as many areas of cooperation between Russia and the Netherlands as possible", wishing peace and success to "this beautiful country of tulips".