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Gay Russian protester detained for unfurling rainbow flag at Olympic relay

Saturday, January 18, 2014
Andrei Nasonov, APSecurity personnel detain Pavel Lebedev, a gay protester who unfurled a rainbow flag during the Olympic torch relay as it passed through his hometown of Voronezh, 334 miles south of Moscow, on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014.

Andrei Nasonov, AP
Security personnel detain Pavel Lebedev, a gay protester who unfurled a rainbow flag during the Olympic torch relay as it passed through his hometown of Voronezh, 334 miles south of Moscow, on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014.

MOSCOW — A gay Russian protester was detained on Saturday for unfurling a rainbow flag during the Olympic torch relay as it passed through his hometown of Voronezh, 560 miles north of Sochi, where the games will begin Feb. 7.

Photos uploaded by his friends show Pavel Lebedev pulling out the flag and then being detained by Olympic security personnel, who wrestle him to the snow as they wait for police to arrive.

Lebedev, reached by The Associated Press on the phone, said he was still in the police station and undergoing questioning.

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“Hosting the games here contradicts the basic principles of the Olympics, which is to cultivate tolerance,” Lebedev said, citing growing homophobia in Russia as the main reason for his protest.

A ban on propaganda of “nontraditional sexual relations” that was signed by President Vladimir Putin into law in June has provoked widespread international outrage from critics who believe the legislation discriminates against gays.

In the wake of that backlash, Russian authorities have put limits on the right to protest during the Sochi Olympics, which will run until Feb. 23.

A presidential decree initially banned all rallies in Sochi from Jan. 7 to March 21, but Putin later rescinded the ban to allow demonstrations at venues determined by the Interior Ministry.

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Filed under: Europe, Olympics

91 more reader comments:

  1. :’(

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 6:02pm
  2. That guy receives my digital hug.

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 6:03pm
  3. Unfortunately,in the current political and social climate in Russia,he’ll be lucky not to die of a mysterious ailment while in custody,or be shot trying to escape.

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 6:04pm
  4. I hope there are thousands of Rainbow Flags at the Opening Cermonies!!!

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 6:05pm
  5. Me too!!

    Replied on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 6:11pm
  6. RIGHT

    Replied on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 6:16pm
  7. All the athletes need to wear rainbow hats, socks, or the rainbow version of their flag.

    Replied on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 7:07pm
  8. Don’t play by “rules” pay the price

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 6:05pm
  9. Whatever you say, Mary...

    Replied on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 6:59pm
  10. How very authoritarian of you. There's a little thing we like to call civil disobedience...

    Replied on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 8:19pm
  11. Not cool. DIS LIKE.

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 6:05pm
  12. Russia sucks!!!

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 6:07pm
  13. So very sad that this still goes on in this day and age. Maybe one day Russia will catch up with the times and stop hating people for who they are. Thoughts and prayers go out to all the Russian LGBT people.

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 6:07pm
  14. Let the USA not get a chip on its shoulder; struggle continues here in the land of Freedom. Freedom for some!

    Replied on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 11:02pm
  15. I HOPE EVERYONE THERE CELEBRATES AND SUPPORTS LGBT RAINBOW FLAGS EVERY WHERE 10000000000000000000000 FLAGS RAINBOW NOW

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 6:09pm
  16. No matter he’s orders, the Soldier should be ashamed of himself!!!

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 6:09pm
  17. …shame on you all! Never be shamed to be gay! Stand up! ❤️

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 6:10pm
  18. Jews all over again

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 6:11pm
  19. Pink Triangles ! ....Israel behind the curve....

    Replied on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 11:06pm
  20. yea and Dipshit Putin said they’d leave the LGBT community alone

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 6:12pm
  21. Don’t watch the games but support your team via social media. This is the most expensive games ever so if you don’t watch maybe Russia, Putin, Sponsors, and the Olympic commission will get the point.

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 6:12pm
  22. Won't that just hurt NBC? And the gay athletes we aren't supporting?

    Replied on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 9:10pm
  23. yes

    Replied on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 9:10pm
  24. Seriously,Mr. Coppock? This is a matter of being a human being,a human being persecuted for being who and what he happens to be; this is not about paying the price for committing robbery,rape,murder,theft,etc.

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 6:15pm
  25. I CANNOT BELIEVE WERE GOING TO SUCH A COUNTRY BOYCOTT SOCHI NOW

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 6:15pm
  26. Fight homophobia rise up against that government organize millions! Protest in the millions occupy the government offices!

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 6:17pm
  27. I Hope He Moves To This
    Country. And Boycotts His
    Countries Behavior.

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 6:25pm
  28. Any American found to aid any other country in anti-LGBT activities should be tried for hate crimes against humanity.

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 6:25pm
  29. Joanie: Yes absolutely! What's happening in Russia and Africa can be traced back to organizations such as NOM easily because they boast of it. As horrible and gut-wrenching as these things are; they are an opportunity for us here to relentlessly, tar; humiliate; shame; discredit and sue out of existence the organizations and individuals here that back it. The events in places like Nigeria belie their true intentions here. It might not stop it overseas, but I believe we can put them out of business here because of their involvement overseas.

    Replied on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 7:03pm
  30. Speak OUT Joanie ; much USA $$$$ flows to anti-GLTQ movements worldwide ! Not just Russia but in Africa, Latin America, Europe, and ASIA! Worldwide solidarity!

    Replied on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 11:06pm
  31. Gay or not all nations should wear a rainbow PRIDE flag during the ceremonies! What could happen cancel the Olympics!

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 6:29pm
  32. That shit is crazy. I can’t even understand how someone personal sexual preference even be an issue. SMH

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 6:29pm
  33. Those Countries Ought To
    Be Found Guilty For Anti-Gay-L.G.B.T. Activities. There Leaders Should Be
    Tried For Hate Crimes Against Humanity All Together. Let Alone Violating
    Many Human Rights All Together.

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 6:30pm
  34. Shame on Russia… and any other country that supports this type of behavior.

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 6:34pm
  35. Like many parts and many people in USA ! GOP and tea party! The founder (one of the founders) of GOProud just left GOP because they will not STOP all their points of bigotry and discrimination. Sad when your own call you OUT!

    Replied on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 11:04pm
  36. That Government Needs To Be Stoned To Death. For There Unlawful Behavior.

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 6:34pm
  37. sad

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 6:37pm
  38. why wont America make a real stand against these haters?

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 6:37pm
  39. Shameful Russki Fuckwits

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 6:43pm
  40. DA mother forkers they are keeping it at that hell?
    The mota foka that shit was not supposed to happen people.
    Damn they just think money the fuck…

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 6:48pm
  41. Speak english please, no idea what you are saying.

    Replied on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 10:39pm
  42. very good

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 6:51pm
  43. Bring it!

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 6:56pm
  44. Ran,we are the modern day equivalent of the 1930s Jews of Europe…not enough people care enough to stand up for us,and the ones who do care don’t quite have the huevos to make the tough choices.

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 6:56pm
  45. No comparison to the Jews of Europe. In America, it reminds me of black people being granted the same rights as whites. It is still a fight here. But to the Jews, that's a stretch.

    Replied on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 10:38pm
  46. Pink triangles negate anyone saying this not equivalent to Germany in WWII. Even the Jews have never until recently shared the oppression but continued it!

    Replied on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 11:08pm
  47. well this goes to show how safe gay visitors will be…fuck russia, fuck putin, fuck the olympic sell outs

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 7:03pm
  48. i love watching the winter olympics but wont be this year, sorry but russia probabely wasnt a good idea

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 7:04pm
  49. Abolish the law now!

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 7:06pm
  50. The whole world is watching, and we don’t like what we see. Time to start treating these countries like South Africa during apartheid.

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 7:10pm
  51. Welcome to the Fascolympics, totaling boycotting anything to do with Hitl..er…Putin’s Oympics.

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 7:14pm
  52. Countries should opt out of the Olympics and plainly refuse to participate. This bunch are gonna have the athletes from any other country at gun point to lose anyway hahaha

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 7:15pm
  53. Boycott!

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 7:19pm
  54. Ran because most of the Olympic sponsors are American so you see the dilemma ?

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 7:21pm
  55. If they think they are going to be able to contain the rainbow flags during these events then they are even stupider that thought. (And that was MIGHTY stupid.) Putin and his lackeys are going to be humiliated on the world stage. As they deserve.

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 7:21pm
  56. Police state

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 7:29pm
  57. SOICHI is over.

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 7:31pm
  58. good im glad

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 7:34pm
  59. People will die because Putin is insecure in his manhood. Maybe he has a small penis or just a small brain, either way his campaign of hate is going to kill people.

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 7:34pm
  60. Boycott

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 7:46pm
  61. TOO BAD GAYRUSSIANS , NO WONDER YOU WANT TO COME TO AMERICA!!

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 8:04pm
  62. Oh yeah, the games are safe for LGBT folks, sure!

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 8:06pm
  63. Kick him in the balls and run kid.

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 8:13pm
  64. This is the REAL FACE RUSSIA FOR GAYS…….DETAINED and DESAPEARE. Just cuzzzz UNFURLIN RAINBOW FLAG at the O. Realy.

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 8:16pm
  65. Is this ACT OF HUMAN RIGHT IS RELATED WITH KIDS?

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 8:17pm
  66. Mentally insane.

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 8:19pm
  67. Russia is turning into Natzi Germany.

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 8:21pm
  68. Will someone tell Putin we don’t recruit, that’s the militaries game!

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 8:35pm
  69. Write to the sponsors, tell them you won’t be watching the Olympics, so won’t see their advertising. Don’t buy any of the sponsors products while the Olympics are on & tell them why.

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 8:36pm
  70. Sports above Human Rights.
    Sure, makes perfect sense.
    And a lot of Dollars.

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 8:42pm
  71. That person has balls of steel, bravo you crazy brave soul.

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 8:50pm
  72. EVERYONE SHOULD BOYCOTT THE OLYMPICS THIS YEAR!

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 8:53pm
  73. This is a Totalitarian State!!!!!! Going to be exactly like the 1936 Olympic Games; extremely disappointing!!!

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 9:00pm
  74. Just wrong….

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 9:11pm
  75. Fight the good fight!

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 9:16pm
  76. The religious hatred has reached a point where something is going to give!!! Time to end the scharade…religion kills.

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 9:32pm
  77. Brave man. I hope they don’t treat him too harshly.

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 9:38pm
  78. Really curious if all the hatred and bigotry by all the righteous ‘phonies’ was targeted against another group, such as the black community, would the lack of concern and fight be at the same level. Shame!

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 9:45pm
  79. well, they can’t arrest EVERYONE

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 9:56pm
  80. You think the risk of being thrown out into the cold by your family and fired form your job is a CHOICE?! To go through the torment of trying to figure out who you are?! the risk of losing everyone around you?! WHY WOULD ANYONE CHOOSE THAT?!

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 9:57pm
  81. Here we go. Russia in arms! People of religion that’s been brainwashed into believing in someone that’s fake! Rainbow flag will never lose its color or whom it stands for, no matter how anyone fells! I have a boycott against the Olympics and the sponsors that represent them too. Don’t buy products of hate! Don’t watch sports of hate! The Gay Community Ban Together against Russia for hate went beyond the Olympics prior to this too!

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 10:10pm
  82. Now, tell me. What harm would a colored flag be to a child? A child would have no idea what it represents, and I doubt many of those adults over there understand what it represents, too. That is NOT indorsing homosexuality, it is simply endorsing EQUALITY and nothing sexual about a rainbow flag. They just want to make a big deal out of nothing.

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 10:30pm
  83. NAZIS!

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 10:41pm
  84. All the Russian people should be ashamed of their leader :(

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 10:42pm
  85. Russia is not a democratic country. They are not like the USA. Support our athletes…they work very hard.

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 10:42pm
  86. As a straught man, what’s wrong of waving the rainbow flag, everyone should be able to love whoever they want. I hope the LGBT come out in full force during the Opening Ceremonies.

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 11:01pm
  87. Damn

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 11:09pm
  88. Fuck Russia, I think all of us going should screw up the hotels. Block up toilets, damage everything!

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 11:59pm
  89. I have a bad feeling about this!!

    Posted on Sunday, January 19, 2014 at 12:14am
  90. Russian attitude sucks!

    Posted on Sunday, January 19, 2014 at 12:42am
  91. I think Russia won’t hosting the Olympics in my lifetime again

    Posted on Sunday, January 19, 2014 at 12:46am