Russian supermarket chain VkusVill has pulled an advertisement featuring a same-sex couple following a social media uproar by conservative groups in a country where homophobia is prevalent.
Last Wednesday -- the final day of Pride month -- VkusVill rolled out a new ad campaign highlighting health-conscious families. One version featured a woman, her two daughters and the female fiancee of one of the daughters.
By Sunday the company had deleted the ad and replaced it with a statement explaining that it had "hurt the feelings of a big part of our customers, employees, partners and suppliers".
"The goal of our company is to enable our customers to receive fresh and tasty products on a daily basis, and not to publish articles that reflect any political or social views," it said.
"In no way did we want to become a source of strife and hatred," it added, explaining that the ad was a "mistake" that was a result of "the unprofessionalism of individual employees".
Signed by company's founder Andrei Krivenko along with 11 top managers, the statement concluded: "We sincerely apologise."
VkusVill's content manager, Roman Polyakov, on Friday told the opposition news site MBKh Media that the company had chosen to highlight the family because they were "in line with our values of diversity".
"There are such families too, they also go to our store," he said.
He added that the management of the company, which has expanded rapidly in Russia in recent years by promoting healthy lifestyles, had reacted "positively" to the ad.
But the promotion was subject to a wave of criticism online from traditionalists, including ruling party lawmaker Vitaly Milonov, one of the chief proponents of a controversial 2013 law that bans "gay propaganda" for minors.
The ad had been marked with an 18+ tag in keeping with that legislation.
On Sunday Milonov welcomed VkusVill's apology, calling the ad "filthy" in a post on the Vkontakte social network.
Although Russia decriminalised homosexuality in 1993, general intolerance towards the LBGTQ community persists, buttressed by government policies.
Last year the country added a phrase to its constitution saying that marriage is the union of a man and a woman.