Russian president Vladimir Putin has claimed that many of his countrymen who lived abroad are now returning to because it’s “very difficult to live” with unisex toilets.
There are no exact figures of how many people have left Russia since Putin launched his full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, with estimates varying hugely, but, in May, the UK Ministry of Defence put the figure at 1.3 million for that year alone.
Nearly two years into the war, some Russian citizens are indeed returning.
For some, this is forced because countries are denying Russian citizens visas to live abroad, while others are going back to fulfil familial or job responsibilities.
During a televised discussion on Tuesday (16 January), Putin weighed in on why he thinks Russian citizens may be returning to Russia.
He believes Russians are struggling with the prominence of “shared toilets for boys and girls” in the West, according to a clip shared on X/Twitter by BBC Monitoring journalist Francis Scarr.
“This has become an every-day, ordinary phenomenon,” Putin said. “And for those who left Russia for various reasons, many of them are now returning or are thinking about returning.
“It’s very difficult to live in such conditions for people with traditional, normal, human values.”
Putin’s words echo those of St Petersburg governor Alexander Beglov.
On Saturday (13 January), Beglov claimed that Russian soldiers had seen “gender-neutral bathrooms” in Ukrainian schools, Meduza reported. This helped them “understand very well what [Russia] is fighting for”, he added.
And during speech at the Primakov Readings international forum in 2022, Russian diplomat Sergey Lavrov complained about how he didn’t know what toilets he was supposed to use during a trip to Sweden, because there were, he said, “80” genders in Europe and the UK.
“If it is what I observed in Sweden last year, [at] a meeting of the OSCE Ministerial Council, when, during the break, I asked where the bathroom was, they told me the door with the letters W.C.
“I asked: ‘Is this for ladies or gentlemen?’ [and] was told, ‘We share everything’,” the former foreign minister said. “I couldn’t believe it, but it was really like that. You can’t imagine how unhuman it was, just not human.”
In December 2022, Russia’s parliament tightened the original 2013 law, which prevented depictions or discussions of LGBTQ+ topics around minors, by expanding it to cover citizens of all ages.
Six months later, Russia adopted legislation banning gender-affirming healthcare, changing gender markers in official documents and dissolving marriages of trans people.
It also prohibits transgencer people adopting or taking guardianship over children.
LGBTQ+ people told PinkNews that they fled Russia because of these increased attacks and the arrests of community members. Others are “scared s**tless” as they try to make a life for themselves under the repressive regime.