MOSCOW, August 22: Russia's pole vault champion Yelena Isinbayeva, who last week caused a global uproar with remarks seen as anti-gay, leapt into a new controversy Thursday by declaring she wanted to leave her "decayed" Russian home town to live in Monaco.
The 31-year-old star double Olympic champion told journalists in her hometown of Volgograd (formerly Stalingrad) that she prefers to live in Monaco, where living and training conditions are better.
"I think I will live abroad," Isinbayeva told reporters, quoted by mass circulation weekly Argumenty i Fakty. "I will have many responsibilities in Volgograd, but I want to live in Monaco."
In her first comments since the controversy over her position on gay rights erupted, Isinbayeva appeared to disparage her home town and said she will only come to visit her coach.
"What can one do in penniless Volgograd? The city became scary, old. It has decayed," she added.
"The roads are terrible -- if you buy a foreign car you might as well write it off."
Complaining of the working conditions of teachers, doctors and sports trainers, she said: "Our city does not really have conditions for living. No-one listens to us, they just wave their hands."
Facing a second media storm in the space of a week, Isinbayeva said in another interview later Thursday that she didn't mean to offend Volgograd, merely pointed out the dire state of the city's roads and facilities.
"It's my native, favorite city, and my heart breaks for this city. I really like for it to be better, more comfortable," she told the Sovetsky Sport newspaper, adding that she had expected journalists to "soften" her harsher statements.
Isinbayeva also denied that she plans to move full time to Monaco, saying she "may be spending more time there" as she takes a break from her training.
"Lena wanted not to insult Volgograd, but to declare her love for it and wish it to change for the best," her longstanding coach Yevgeny Trofimov told RIA-Novosti.
"Why is everyone picking on Isinbayeva?" he added.
Last week, Isinbayeva was criticised by Western activists and commentators after she backed a new Russian law that bans "homosexual propaganda" to minors, a vague piece of legislation that is seen as an instrument for a crackdown against gays.
"We consider ourselves like normal standard people -- we just live with boys with women, women with boys," Isinbayeva said at the Moscow World Athletics Championships, in comments that she later said may have been misunderstood.
The controversial law was signed by Putin in June and has prompted calls for a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
The athlete has said she wants now to take a prolonged break to have a baby but still may return to competition in time for the 2016 Rio Games.
Isinbayeva, who has publicly supported President Vladimir Putin, lived in Monaco in the past but had returned to Volgograd to work again with Trofimov.
Volgograd is primarily known as the site of the World War II Battle of Stalingrad, seen as a turning point in the conflict which paved the way for the defeat of Nazi Germany by the USSR.
An iconic 87-metre high statue known as "The Motherland Calls" which commemorates the victory overlooks the city.