Two Bar Managers Criminally Charged Under Russia’s LGBTQ+ “Extremism” Ban

Two managers of a Russian LGBTQ+ bar have been arrested and could face 10 years in jail, in the first criminal case since officials banned LGBTQ+ “extremism” last year.

Diana Kamilyanova and Alexander Klimov, the manager and art director of the nightclub Pose in Orenburg, were arrested during a police raid earlier this month and charged with “organizing extremist activities,” The Moscow Times reported on Wednesday. Kamilyanova is accused of hiring drag performers for the bar, while Klimov is charged with filming the resulting shows. Both are being held in pre-trial detention until May 18.

The case against both workers reportedly represents the first criminal charges targeting LGBTQ+ people since Russia’s Supreme Court declared that the “international public LGBT movement” is inherently “extremist” last November. Several people have already been charged with misdemeanors and fined for various acts such as wearing rainbow earrings and displaying a rainbow flag. Ekaterina Mizulina, head of the para-governmental internet censorship group Safe Internet League, credited the raid to “local activists” in a statement on her Telegram account this week. The Moscow Times noted that pro-war nationalist activists known as the “Russian Community of Orenburg” had claimed responsibility for alerting police to the bar’s “activities.”

At least three Russian LGBTQ+ organizations have closed their doors since November in response to the “extremism” ruling, according to Human Rights Watch. The ruling came after years of anti-LGBTQ+ hostility from President Vladimir Putin, who has demonized transgender medical care and same-sex marriage as part of his political crusade against “Western liberalism.” Putin won in an election that was likely rigged this week after his opponent, Alexei Navalny, died in prison last month while serving a 19-year sentence on “extremism” charges.

Human rights groups have continued to condemn Russia for its crackdown on LGBTQ+ communities, calling for sanctions and an immediate end to the arrests. (Police have even targeted events like “My Little Pony” conventions for alleged tied to LGBTQ+ “propaganda.”) Natalia Zviagina, Amnesty International’s Russia Director, called the cooperation between Russian police and anti-LGBTQ+ activists “particularly reprehensible” in a statement on Tuesday.

“The international community must call on Russian authorities to review the homophobic Supreme Court ruling and immediately stop persecution of LGBTI persons,” Zviagina wrote. “It is imperative to ensure that all human rights are enjoyed by everyone without exception.”

Get the best of what’s queer. Sign up for Them’s weekly newsletter here.