Two bar workers arrested in Russia’s first LGBTQ ‘extremism’ case

Two people in Russia have become the first to be arrested under the country’s new “LGBTQ+ extremism” law. 

The arrests follow Russia’s Supreme Court outlawing the “international LGBT movement” towards the end of last year. 

Members of staff at Pose, a venue in the city of Orenburg, close to the border with Kazakhstan, were arrested following a police raid earlier this month, footage of which appeared online and showed people being detained by officers. 

Independent news website Mediazona named the pair as Alexander Klimov, the art director of the club, and manager Diana Kamilyanova. 

Information on the Central District Court of Orenburg’s website alleges that they were identified as “being persons with a non-traditional sexual orientation” and “acting as a group of persons in a preliminary conspiracy with persons unidentified by the investigation, who also support the views and activities of the LGBT international public association banned in our country”. 

It went on to allege that Klimov “selected drag queen artists, held meetings with them and promoted non-traditional sexual relationships among visitors to the bar and in the Telegram mobile application”. 

Kamilyanova is alleged to have “selected staff, monitored the quality of service to bar visitors, approved performances and events, provided photo and video recording of performances promoting non-traditional sexual relationships, and performed financial and economic functions”. 

The pair will remain in custody until 18 May and could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted. 

Russia is a dangerous place for LGBTQ+ people

Russia declared the “international public LGBT movement” an extremist organisation in November 2023, despite no such group existing. The court’s vague language leaves queer people in the country at risk of being handed lengthy prison sentences simply for being queer. 

In the wake of the ruling, activist Alexei Sergeyev told Reuters he can’t “remember the threat ever being so serious and real”, and the head of the Russian LGBT Network, Igor Kochetkov, said the law will make any form of queer activism impossible. 

Since the law came into force, police have raided a gay bar in Russia’s fourth-largest city Yekaterinburg, a My Little Pony convention was shut down for supposedly promoting LGBTQ+ propaganda, and anti-riot officers stormed what state media called an “anti-war LGBTQ+ party” meeting near St Petersburg. 

A demonstrator outside the Russian embassy in Madrid holds a poster depicting Vladimir Putin wearing make-up, to protest against homophobia and repression in Russia. (GERARD JULIEN/AFP via Getty Images)

The latest wave of repression follows years of homophobia and transphobia in Russia. 

In 2013, the country adopted legislation banning gay ‘propaganda’ from being disseminated to children. The law has since been extended to cover adults too. 

Meanwhile, the government defines marriage as a union strictly between a man and woman, effectively outlawing same-sex marriage, and banned gender-affirming care last year.

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