Update: Vladimir Luxuria was arrested by Russian police on Monday as she entered Shayba Arena at the Olympic Park to watch a hockey game, while wearing a rainbow-colored outfit and headdress. Story and photos →
SOCHI, Russia – Italian gay rights activist Vladimir Luxuria said she was detained by police at the Olympics after being stopped while carrying a rainbow flag that read in Russian: “Gay is OK.”
Police on Monday denied this happened, and the owner of Sochi’s gay club said she was at his club that evening “enjoying” herself, contradicting a statement by the spokesman of an Italian gay rights group who said he spoke with Luxuria when she was released shortly after 3 a.m. Monday morning
Luxuria, a former Communist lawmaker in the Italian parliament who has become a prominent transgender rights crusader and television personality, told The Associated Press she was held for several hours before she was released. She said she was not charged.
Speaking from a Sochi hotel, she said she was detained on Sunday evening in a city park by two people she did not identify and who asked what she was wearing. Luxuria added she was kept at a police station for about two hours, most of the time waiting for an interpreter to arrive.
“The problem was not a rainbow flag, the problem was the writing,” she said. “They asked me not to show things like that anymore.”
Sochi organizers said Monday they had no information of any such incident.
“We’ve talked to police and they have told us there is no record whatsoever to any detention or arrest,” Sochi organizing committee spokeswoman Alexandra Kosterina said.
A duty officer at the central police station in Sochi told The Associated Press they have never had an Italian national in custody.
Protesters are routinely arrested at unauthorized rallies in Moscow. Often, officers at the police station are so overwhelmed with paperwork they keep some people at the station for hours and let them go later without registering the detention or giving the detained person any document explaining it.
Luxuria’s agent, Fabio Saccani, told the AP police confiscated the rainbow flag from Luxuria, who tried to grab it back. At that point, he added, she was taken away.
But Andrei Tanichev, owner of Sochi’s main gay club Mayak, said Monday that Luxuria was there Sunday night and was “enjoying” herself and “even took part in the (drag) show.”
Tanichev said Luxuria left on her own and he has no knowledge of the detention.
Flavio Romani, president of Arcigay, an Italian gay-rights advocacy organization had told the Italian news agency ANSA that he had spoken to Luxuria by telephone from the police station where she said she had been detained, and again when she was released shortly after 3 a.m. local time in Sochi on Monday morning.
Earlier Sunday, Luxuria posted a photograph on Twitter of herself holding a rainbow-colored fan, with the message: “I’m in Sochi! Regards, with the colors of the rainbow, in Putin’s face!”