Rupert Everett: Russian anti-gay laws have forced gay community ‘into a life of petty criminality’

British actor Rupert Everett, who last month said he agreed to a boycott of the Sochi Olympics, has spoken out about his time spent living in Russia, saying that anti-gay laws have turned the gay community into “gypsies, tramps and thieves.”

In an interview with Newsnight yesterday, Rupert Everett recalled his experiences living among Russia’s gay community.

He said: “To be gay was absolutely impossible, and any gay people that one actually met were really outcast.

“They became almost what people thought they were. In other words, they were really gypsies, tramps and thieves. They were forced into a life of petty criminality.

“With nowhere to communicate or meet up, they were very isolated, very scared people. And this has just gotten worse.”

The actor also talked about how he met with a small group of gay activists in Russia who were trying to teach the community about AIDS.

He said: “No one in Russia probably even knows about AIDS because there’s so little information.

“If you were gay and were to develop HIV, it would be better for you to pretend you were a junkie when going to the hospital than to be gay.

“So it is better to be a junkie than to be gay.”

Speaking at the Edinburgh international book festival last month, Everett said he “absolutely” agreed with Stephen Fry’s letter to David Cameron about intervening in Russian affair with a boycott of the Sochi Winter Games.

“It feels terrible to have to observe all this stuff going on,” he said. “If you are gay in Russia you don’t know anything about anything. You have no idea Aids exists because there’s no information. You live very secretly. If anyone finds out you are gay you are liable to be beaten up, or killed, or forced to die by suicide.

President Vladimir Putin signed the law in June banning the promotion of “non-traditional relationships” toward minors, a move that has been criticised as part of a broader crackdown on Russia’s gay community. Other laws banning the adoption of Russian children by foreign same-sex couples, and one which enables organisations receiving funding from abroad to be fined as “foreign agents”, were also passed.

The laws have so far sparked controversy among LGBT activists, with some calling for a boycott of the 2014 Games. Others have also called to boycott Russian vodka as a form of protest.