LGBT activists attacked with ‘acid substance’ in Russia

Founders Anna and Yulia pose with the logo for this year's conference, which did not go ahead as planned after LGBT+ activists were targeted in an attack.

LGBT+ activists in Russia involved in organising a conference about same-sex families were attacked for the second year in a row.

The fifth annual LGBTQIAPP+ Family Conference was due to take place on November 9-11, despite funding issues that forced organisers to raise money via crowdfunding to guarantee safety at the venue.

Conference organisers managed to secure a location for the event for free, but on the afternoon of November 9 the venue managers informed the organisers the conference had to be cancelled because they had received threats that made it difficult to guarantee participants’ safety.

The LGBT+ activists cleared the space and headed to a nearby shop. As they came out of the shop, they were attacked by an unidentified assailant.

Attack on LGBT+ activists similar to that of the previous year

Nadeshda Aronchik, fundraiser and co-organiser of the conference, tells PinkNews that one person ran towards the volunteers and sprayed them with an “acid substance.” The substance hit two people in the eyes, but also affected other people in the group who were also sprayed.

The two LGBT+ activists that were injured received hospital treatment and are currently recuperating well, Aronchik says. They are being kept under constant monitoring as the substance may lead to longterm consequences.

The opening of the 2017 conference where LGBT+ activists were targeted for the second year in a row.

The event founders at the opening of the 4th family conference last year. (Supplied)

While the substance is yet to be identified by police, Aronchik is sure it was not pepper-spray, as it has been reported elsewhere.

“They were sprayed with the same acid substance as me and my colleagues last year,” she says.

Last year, a group of four men attacked conference guests, organisers and volunteers with an unknown substance, forcing the conference’s third day to be cancelled.

A case into the assault—which was considered to be homophobic, a virtually unprecedented step in Russia—was only opened in August, but the attackers were apprehended and are awaiting trial.

“They won’t win because we don’t give up. We know we are in the right here, so we won’t stop fighting.”

— Nadeshda Aronchik

Aronchik believes the person responsible for this year’s attack is related to the far-right group who orchestrated the one last year. Her suspicion is reinforced by messages the conference organisers received after the November 9 attack.

“After the attack, the organisers received threats through calls and SMS saying they should ‘die’ and ‘burn in hell’ and saying, ‘How did you like our present? Last year was only the beginning,’” Aronchik says, adding that they reported the threats to the police.

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