Russian prosecutors decline to take action against homophobic governor

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

The State Office of Public Prosecutor of the Russian Federation has decided not to start criminal proceedings against the Governor of the Tambov region.

Following a scandal that led to the arrest of the mayor of Tambov, 480km south east of Moscow, the region’s Governor made a series of homophobic statements, including one that seemed to call for violence against gays.

Interfax news agency has reported that state prosecutors have decided against bringing charges as there is “nothing criminal” about his comments.

They also concluded that homosexuals are not members of a particular social group against whom hatred can be incited.

A spokesperson for the Tambov prosecution department said “all interested parties were informed about the results of the investigation, there have not been any complaints yet.”

Mayor Maxim Kosenkov was arrested in April and removed from office after he allegedly kidnapped his 19-year-old former lover.

The fact that the mayor was revealed to be gay appeared to trouble Governor Oleg Betin more than the actual kidnapping.

In an interview with the national daily Komsomolskaya Pravda, in response to a question on his tolerance levels, Betin was quoted as saying:

“Tolerance? To hell with that! Gomiki [a pejorative term for gays] need to be torn apart!

“Then scatter their pieces to the wind!

“I am against perversion.”

Article 282 of the Russian Federation’s criminal code outlaws the incitement of hatred or enmity, as well as abasement of dignity of a person or a group of persons on the basis of sex, race, nationality, language, religion, as well as affiliation to any social group, if these acts have been committed in public or with the use of mass media.

Betin also opined that the local and national media need to be “cleansed” of homosexuals and accused Kosenkov of surrounding himself with gay people at Tambov city hall.

Most people interviewed on the street later about the mayor and the scandal stated that Kosenkov had done a good job as mayor and they didn’t care about his sexual orientation.

In May representatives of gay rights groups submitted an application to the state prosecutor to institute criminal proceedings against the Governor.