Gay rights activists took to the streets of London to protest against Russian conductor Valery Gergiev before he was set to hit the stage for an opera concert on Thursday (07Nov13).

Approximately 60 people gathered outside of London's Barbican Centre to protest against the conductor, a friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose anti-gay laws have sparked global controversy.

One protester, David Sylph, tells Britain's The Guardian newspaper, "We love the music... But we're unhappy that Valery Gergiev is a friend and supporter of Putin, who has introduced these anti-gay laws in Russia as a result of which gay people are being attacked all over the country. We want him to denounce those laws."

Gergiev defended himself before his performance by releasing a statement, which reads, "It is wrong to suggest that I have ever supported anti-gay legislation and in all my work I have upheld equal rights for all people.

"I am an artist and have worked with tens of thousands of people and many of them are indeed my friends."