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Vladimir Putin Launches Raids on Moscow LGBTQ+ Clubs After Court Ruling

Author: Donald Padgett

Less than 48 hours after the Russian Supreme Court declared the “international LGBT social movement” to be an “extremist” element, police and security forces raided at least four LGBTQ+ establishments in Moscow, according to multiple media sources.Осторожно, новости

The Russian Supreme Court earlier this week granted a request from the country’s Ministry of Justice to label the “international LGBT social movement” as an “extremist” element. The decision was made behind closed doors and it took less than four hours for the judges to reach their decision.

Critics noted the ban did not define what constitutes an LGBTQ+ entity or organization and warned the ruling gave a green light to a crackdown on anyone associated with the LGBTQ+ community.

“This shameful and absurd decision represents a new front in the Russian authorities’ campaign against the LGBTI community,” Marie Struthers, director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International, said in a statement and before the recent raids. “The ruling risks resulting in a blanket ban on LGBTI organizations with far-reaching violations of the rights to freedom of association, expression, and peaceful assembly, as well as the right to be free from discrimination. It will affect countless people, and its repercussions are poised to be nothing short of catastrophic.”

Critics also accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of using the crackdown as an appeal to his culturally conservative base.

“The authorities’ move apparently serves a dual purpose,” Tanya Lokshina, associate Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement before the raids. “It is meant to increase the scapegoating of LGBT people to appeal to the Kremlin’s conservative supporters before the March 2024 presidential vote and to paralyze the work of rights groups countering discrimination and supporting LGBT people.”

Putin publicly described the West and an alleged global LGBTQ+ movement as existential threats to Russian cultural values and traditions last year.

“They sought to destroy our traditional values and force on us their false values that would erode us, our people from within, the attitudes they have been aggressively imposing on their countries, attitudes that are directly leading to degradation and degeneration, because they are contrary to human nature,” Putin said of the West and its progressive values in February of 2022 while announcing the invasion of Ukraine, The New York Times reported at the time.

In July, Putin directed sexologists to help gay people overcome what he called the “mental disorder” of same-sex sexual attraction. A month earlier he ordered the Ministry of Health to create an institute to study queer people at the Serbsky Center for Psychiatry and Narcology.

In June, Russia passed a bill that banned gender-affirming surgery and treatment and outlawed changing official documents to align with a person’s true gender.

Last December, Putin signed a law strengthening a ban on LGBTQ “propaganda” in Russia and making it illegal to promote same-sex sexual relations or suggest non-heterosexual attractions are “normal.” Individuals can be fined up to 400,000 rubles ($6,370) for “LGBT propaganda” and up to 200,000 rubles ($3,185) for “demonstrations of LGBT and information that encourages a change of gender among teenagers.” The fines increase to 5 million rubles ($80,000) and 4 million rubles ($64,000) respectively for legal entities.

It is illegal under current Russian law to participate in or finance an extremist group or organization, punishable by up to 12 years in prison. Displaying symbols of an extremist group is punishable with up to 15 days in custody for first-time offenders and repeat violations are punishable by up to four years in prison. Those found violating the law can also have their assets frozen and are forbidden from other aspects of public life.

No arrests were reported in the recent raids, but it remains unclear what authorities will do with the personal information they obtained during the raids and how they will use it to further crack down on the LGBTQ+ community in the country.

Original Article on The Advocate
Author: Donald Padgett

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