OVD-Info Weekly Bulletin No. 349: Staff of a gay club in custody

23 March 2024

OVD-Info is a Russian civil society organisation that monitors politically-motivated arrests and prosecutions in Russia. Each week OVD-Info publishes a bulletin with the latest news, which is translated here. To receive the mailing in Russian, visit here.


Human rights activist Tatyana Kotlyar. Photo: 7×7

News

Hello! The first criminal case against someone for involvement  in the ‘LGBT movement’ has been brought, in Orenburg; a human rights activist in Kaluga who helps Russians and foreigners with registration has been handed a large fine; and police have carried out a brutal raid on an Orthodox community in the Ulyanovsk region.

Staff of an Orenburg club have been sent to a detention centre in a case involving the ‘international LGBT movement’. The art director and administrator of Pose are accused of organising the activities of an extremist organisation. It is alleged that the former ‘propagandised non-traditional sexual relationships’ on Telegram, and the latter ‘took video footage of events’. At the beginning of March, police raided the establishment: club-goers were humiliated and asked what they were doing in a ‘fag club’.

  • Why is this important? This is the first criminal case since the ‘international LGBT social movement’ was declared an ‘extremist organisation’ by the Ministry of Justice in November 2023. At that time, the Supreme Court said the ‘movement’ had originated in the USA, and had been active in Russia since 1984, being part of ‘a birth control policy, along with other things offering encouragement to non-traditional family relationships’. In the future we are probably going to see a wave of new persecutions of LGBTQ people and the organisations that help them – the case in Orenburg shows that the authorities can use any excuse for this, including absurd ones.

Kaluga human rights activist Tatyana Kotlyar has been fined 450,000 roubles for facilitating the use of her apartment as a place of residential registration. The 72-year-old head of the local branch of the For Human Rights movement has been found guilty of the ‘fictitious registration of Russian citizens or foreigners’. The prosecutor demanded that she be sentenced to jail – 18 months in a penal colony. This is the seventh criminal case against Kotlyar for this offence: previously she was also handed large fines. In February, at the request of the prosecutor’s office, the court banned Tatyana Kotlyar from registering more than six people in one of her apartments, and more than five in another.

  • Why do I need to know this? Tatyana Kotlyar registers in her apartment Russians, migrants and refugees who have no chance of getting a residence permit: according to the prosecutor’s office, the woman has registered 10,593 people in her apartments over the last 15 years. ‘For example, I was approached by a homeless man with a diagnosis of HIV on his records. He had lost his old passport, and a new one had been issued to him without a residence permit, without which he could not receive pills for treatment,’ the human rights activist told OVD-Info. Because of this, the authorities regularly prosecute her: the police maintain that she does not help people, but engages in ‘criminal activity’ that ‘violates Russia’s national security interests’.

An Orthodox community in the Ulyanovsk region has been raided, and the police officers beat and abused the monks. Supporters of the Russian Orthodox Church of the Tsarist Empire share the doctrine of the Tsar Redeemer – they believe in the special role of the death of Emperor Nicholas II. On the night of 15 February police broke into the house of the followers of this movement in the village of Aibashi. According to Abbess Evdokia, the officers beat the believers, tortured them with cold, set their beards on fire, and denied them access to food and water; the police broke furniture and desecrated shrines – beating icons with clubs and trampling them. About 70 Christians were detained, most of whom were later released, but four believers were sent to a pre-trial detention centre on criminal charges of the activities of a non-profit organisation infringing on the person and rights of citizens.

  • Why is this important? This story begs the question: what is the reason for such senseless police cruelty? Perhaps it is impunity – criminal cases are seldom brought against police officers for torture, so violence becomes the norm for them. Perhaps it is xenophobia – people who share unfamiliar views or teachings inspire rejection and hatred in many people, because it is much more difficult to accept [than to reject] differences.

The presidential election has ended in Russia, but the pressure on observers and voters has not ended. In total, we counted no less than 85 detentions, after some residents of different cities received fines and administrative-law jail terms. Some Russians who came to vote abroad also faced problems. For example, in Vilnius, Anti-Corruption Foundation employee Vladislav Romantsov was not given a ballot paper because he refused to remove a badge with the inscription ‘Navalny’, and in Phuket (Thailand) a man with a poster reading ‘We are not paid. We vote against you for free’ was detained.

  • Why do I need to know this? The outcome of the election was obvious. Golos called the fraud ‘the largest scale falsifications in federal elections in Russian history. Police tried their best to ensure Vladimir Putin’s ‘victory’ by any means possible, including the use of violence: for example, in St. Petersburg, a policeman forcibly removed a man from a booth at a polling station, preventing him from voting. Despite this, thousands of Russians took part in the Noon Against Putin rally, and many, despite the possibility of prosecution, left anti-war messages on their ballots or wrote Aleksei Navalny’s name on them.

Features

‘And then she said, “What? Are you discrediting the Special Military Operation?”’ Damir Khisyametdinov, an observer from the Saratov region, was denounced by a journalist. Inna Chumichkina was taking a comment from the observer, the conversation turned to the war… and the woman suddenly asked the man to repeat everything he had said, in front of the police. When he refused, Chumichkina wrote a statement to the Ministry of Internal Affairs. And the next morning Khisyametdinov was taken to the police station. Read his story in a new article on our website.

‘You’ve gone pale. Now you will go even paler.’ On the night of 17 to 18 March, Olesya Vasilchenko, a worker at Polling Station No. 427 in St. Petersburg, was beaten by an unknown man brought in by the chair of the commission. Before that, the chair, her deputy and a secretary had locked themselves in the office with the ballots, behaved rudely and did not let Vasilchenko inside. We tell you what happened at the polling station on the last day of voting and what preceded it – read the article on our website or see the cards in our Telegram channel. 


Translated by Anna Bowles