Russian police raid alleged ‘anti-war LGBTQ+ party’, say state media

Side by side screenshots from a video from state-run media of police in Russia raiding an alleged 'anti-war LGBTQ+ party'

Security forces in Russia swept into a meeting that state-run TV channels claim was an “LGBTQ+ party” for people opposed to Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Broadcasters Ren-TV and reported that masked anti-riot police raided a meeting near St Petersburg on Sunday (18 February) and lined up attendees to interrogate them on alleged ties to the LGBTQ+ community. 

A reporter claimed police “found items with LGBT symbols banned in Russia, suspicious documents and handwritten materials” opposing the war that has now been raging for two years. 

However, independent media outlet Mediazona noted both broadcasters are part of the National Media Group, which is owned by Russian billionaire businessman Yury Kovalchuk, who has close ties to Russia’s president and has been called “Putin’s banker”

Mediazona reported one of those interrogated claiming on Telegram that the meeting was a support group, which included trans people. The source alleged that people were thrown to the floor, had their hair pulled and were subjected to verbal abuse while being questioned by police. 

Just days after invading Ukraine in February 2022, Putin signed a censorship law making it illegal to “discredit” the army. Authorities further intensified efforts to suppress dissent by enforcing legislation against peaceful anti-war speech and human rights activism

You may like to watch

President of Russia Vladimir Putin
Russian president Vladimir Putin. (Getty)

Putin has also enacted laws targeting the queer community. In 2013, legislation outlawed so-called LGBTQ+ propaganda being directed at minors in Russia. This was expanded in 2022 to cover all age groups. 

Last November, Russia’s supreme court branded what it called an “international LGBT public movement” as extremist and outlawed it. The ruling has resulted in arrests, convictionsraids on LGBTQ+ spaces, and queer-rights groups being shut down. 

A gay beauty vlogger previously told PinkNews that he was accused of promoting “LGBTQ+ propaganda” while studying in Russia because he posted makeup tutorials online

Max, who has since fled the country, said officials from his university interrogated him about the posts and asked what he thought about the Russian government. He also endured attacks because of his identity, including having his hand broken and slurs shouted at him in the street. 

“To me, it’s like air,” he said. “I got so used to it that I don’t think I’d know there is another way to live,” he said.

A queer Russian-Ukrainian couple previously told PinkNews that it was “scary” that people outside Russia underestimated the high level of discrimination and violence LGBTQ+ people face under the repressive regime.

“They don’t know anything, what happens there and how it happens,” one of them said. “They don’t understand that, if you go to the police, you can be assaulted or even killed, and no one will know. 

“People have no idea what it is like… I was so scared after all that I wouldn’t go out of my house because I was so scared of people, men specifically.”

Please login or register to comment on this story.