News (World)

Russian bar employees arrested for promoting LGBTQ+ “extremism”

A criminal suspect being detained with hands handcuffed in front of graffiti
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Following a recent raid on an LGBTQ+ bar, Russian authorities have arrested two people accused of being members of an “extremist organization.” The case is the first of its kind since the Russian Supreme Court declared the “international LGBT social movement” an “extremist organization” last November.

According to Amnesty International, Russian police in the city of Orenburg raided the Pose nightclub on March 12, during a drag show. Patrons were forced to lie face down on the floor, and drag performers were left half-naked as authorities confiscated their outfits and wigs. The BBC reported that members of a local nationalist group, Russian Community, reported the club to authorities and aided police in the raid.

Alexander Klimov, the club’s art director, and its administrator, Diana Kamilyanova, have been placed in custody, where they will remain until May 18, and could face up to 10 years in prison.

According to The Guardian, a tribunal in Orenburg accused Klimov and Kamilyanova of “promoting non-traditional sexual relations among the visitors of the bar.”

“The court chose a preventive measure for the art director and administrator of the Pose bar,” the tribunal said. “The accused, people of non-traditional sexual orientation, acted in premeditation with a group of people … who also support the views and activities of the international public association LGBT.”

“This is the first criminal case in Russia after the decision of the Supreme Court to recognize LGBT as an extremist movement,” said Ekaterina Mizulina, director of the ultra-conservative group Safe Internet League.

Since the Supreme Court’s ruling, there have been multiple raids on LGBTQ+ bars and other establishments in cities across Russia, and multiple people have been arrested and charged under the country’s anti-LGBTQ+ laws. But Klimov and Kamilyanova are the first to be accused of extremism. As such, the BBC noted, their case could set precedent for how laws are applied to LGBTQ+ people under the Supreme Court’s November ruling.

Prior to the Supreme Court’s decision at the behest of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Ministry of Justice, Russia had already banned so-called “gay propaganda.” A 2022 law essentially banning any public expressions of support for LGBTQ+ people was an expansion of a 2013 law banning so-called “gay propaganda” in the presence of children.

“What LGBTQ persons and human rights activists have feared since the end of last year has finally come to pass,” Natalia Zviagina, Amnesty International’s Russia Director, said in a statement Tuesday.

Zviagina criticized Russian authorities for allowing members of a nationalist group to participate in the raid on Pose. “Such cooperation between law enforcement and nationalist activists fosters an environment of impunity for homophobic and transphobic attacks and instigates a climate of fear among LGBTI persons,” she said. “The international community must call on Russian authorities to review the homophobic Supreme Court ruling and immediately stop persecution of LGBTI persons. It is imperative to ensure that all human rights are enjoyed by everyone without exception.”

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