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A Russian retail chain has been criticised for removing and apologising for an advert that featured a lesbian family.

VkusVill, an organic grocers chain, initially ran the ad on Wednesday as part of a series spotlighting their regular customers.

The image of a lesbian family was displayed on the company’s website under the company’s slogan “Recipes for family happiness”.

But on Sunday, after their site was targeted with a series of hate messages, the ad was removed and VkusVill posted an apology.

A new advert prominently featured photographs of heterosexual couples and seemed to blame a small group of its staff for the original choice of photos.

“There was an article in this place that hurt the feelings of a large number of both our customers and employees,” a statement read.

“We regret that it happened, and we consider this publication a mistake that became a manifestation of the unprofessionalism of individual employees.”

“Our company’s goal is to enable our customers to receive fresh and delicious products daily, not to publish articles that reflect any political or social views. By no means we wanted to become a source of discord and hatred.”

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The statement and apology were signed by VkusVill’s founder and several other senior executives.

But the decision to replace the original advert has been strongly condemned online by LGBT+ campaigners and other users.