AFP Activists during a protest in St. Petersburg in 2019
NOS Nieuws•vandaag, 11:40
Russian police raided gay bars in Moscow last night. According to local media, this happened under the pretext of drug checks, but the raids are most likely related to the ban on the ‘extremist LGBTI movement’. This was confirmed by the Supreme Court on Thursday.
A nightclub, a sauna for men and a bar that organizes parties for the LGBTI community were raided.
Eyewitnesses say clubgoers had to identify themselves and had their IDs photographed. According to them, managers were able to warn their customers before the police arrived.
Distract from other problems
Several LGBTI locations in Russia have permanently closed their doors. For example, gay bar Central Station in Saint Petersburg closed because the owner would not allow the bar to remain open now that the new law is in effect.
The director of the Moscow Community Center for LGBTI Initiatives says many Russians are considering leaving the country to avoid becoming targets of discrimination. “It is clear to us that they are once again labeling us as a domestic enemy to shift the focus from all the other problems that abound in Russia,” she told AP.
Correspondent Iris de Graaf
“This is exactly what we were afraid of,” says a queer friend of mine in Moscow. “It is not a surprise, but it is a confirmation that this new law gives the security services free rein to intervene wherever and whenever they want.’ Although it was officially a ‘drug raid’, the people I speak to don’t believe it.
That this was a coordinated raid is evident from the fact that several gay bars, strip clubs and saunas in both Moscow and St. Petersburg were targeted by the raids. The fact that visitors’ passports were photographed leads to a lot of panic about what will happen to their data. Since the new law, participation in ‘LGBTI activities’ carries a penalty of up to 6 years in prison. Visitors expect the police to show up at their door at any moment to arrest them.
Discussions are now appearing on Russian social media about how to flee the country – for example, people are wondering whether you can still get out of the country if your passport was photographed last night. Russian human rights organizations have now launched a petition calling on European Union member states, signatories to international human rights conventions, to grant visas to LGBTI people and human rights activists from Russia who are now in grave danger.”
The Russian Supreme Court on Thursday approved a law that labels the “international LGBTI movement” as extremist and bans all activities in Russia. This puts the ‘movement’ on the same list as Al-Qaeda, IS and Navalny’s anti-corruption organization.
Ten years ago, ‘gay propaganda’ was first banned for minors in Russia. Films and books were censored and removed from cinemas and stores.
Last year the ban on ‘gay propaganda’ was extended to all ages and last summer gender reassignment operations were banned, as was changing the gender in the passport. This has major consequences for people who identify as women, but are formally conscripted men during a war.