Russia: LGBT film festival fined under ‘foreign agent’ laws

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

A Russian LGBT film festival has been targeted under “foreign agent” laws, and fined a substantial amount for allegedly failing to declare foreign funding, which organisers deny having received.

The Bok o Bok (Side by Side) Festival, which originated in the city of St Petersburg, was established in 2007, and recently expanded to several other Russian cities including Moscow, Tomsk, Arkhangelsk, Perm and Novosibirsk.

Authorities began an investigation of the organisation in March, and a judge has ruled that the festival must pay 500,000 rubles (£10,000), in fines, for failing to register as a “foreign agent”, under controversial new laws.

On recently introducing the laws, the Kremlin said that any NGOs must register if they are in receipt of funding from foreign parties.

The Side by Side festival denied receiving any foreign funding. A statement posted on the festival website claimed that the judge had ignored their efforts to convince the court that their denial was true.

The fine follows a St Petersburg law equates homosexuality with paedophilia, and which was passed by the city on February 29 of last year – despite more than 270,000 people signing an online petition against the measure.

In January, the Russian State Duma adopted the first reading of a homophobic censorship bill which would impose federal sanctions for the promotion of “gay propaganda”, similar to those passed in several regions of Russia, including St Petersburg. 

Sir Elton John is due to perform in Russia in July, and in what could be a similar turn of events which saw Madonna being sued for “homosexual propaganda” last year, it has been suggested that the famed entertainer’s outfits constitute just that.