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Amsterdam mourns mayor who snubbed Vladimir Putin during visit

Eberhaard van der Laan, the popular former mayor of Amsterdam who once snubbed Russian president Vladimir Putin over Moscow's laws on gay "propaganda" , has died after a long battle with lung cancer.

Amsterdam Municipality, which 62-year-old Mr Van der Laan led for seven years before stepping down last month because of his failing health, said early on Friday that Mr Van der Laan died on Thursday night.

"Amsterdam weeps for its dear mayor and all of the Netherlands mourns" with the city, Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte said in a statement.

A lawyer and member of the Labour Party, Mr Van der Laan was a government minister for housing and integration for two years before being appointed mayor in July 2010.

He made headlines in April 2013 when he said he was too busy to meet Mr Putin during the Russian president's visit to Amsterdam.

The move was widely seen as a snub to Mr Putin because of Russian legislation banning gay "propaganda".

Rainbow flags flew at half-mast around the city during Mr Putin's visit.

Soon after taking office, Mr Van der Laan won respect for personally reaching out to parents of children abused by a paedophile in an Amsterdam day care centre.

He displayed his tough side by cracking down on youth crime and anti-social behaviour in neighbourhoods.

In a Facebook post, Dutch King Willem-Alexander paid tribute to Mr Van der Laan, calling him "a driven mayor with a heart for his city and a fiery belief in a society to which everybody belongs".

In September, he wrote an open letter to all Amsterdam residents announcing he was setting aside his work.

He closed the letter with a line that underscored his affection for both the city and its residents: "Take good care of our city and of each other. Farewell."

Following the announcement, hundreds of people gathered outside his official residence, a historic canal-side mansion, and applauded the mayor.

Mr Van der Laan is survived by his wife, Femke, and five children.

AP

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