Two Russian news websites reported late Friday that police raided gay establishments in Russia. The ruling came one day after Russia's highest court banned the "international LGBTQ movement" and labeled it an extremist group.
To bolster his reputation as a protector of traditional moral values against the modern West, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been cracking down on the LGBTQ community in recent years, and Thursday's historic decision by the Supreme Court has only added to their concern.
Ostorozhno Novosti and Sota, two independent Russian Telegram news outlets, reported that the raids occurred at a minimum of three Moscow entertainment venues.
The news sources also noted that police claimed the raids were normal drug operations.
Police reportedly took pictures of partygoers' passports, according to Ostorozhno Moskva.
Security forces photographed the passports of guests after entering the premises under the guise of an anti-drug check, according to eyewitnesses, the statement added. "The music was cut off midway through the celebration, and the police began to file into the halls."
An eyewitness also shared the video with the outlet, saying, "I was there," while describing the terrifying scenario. The announcement of a police raid came when the music abruptly ended, and I must admit, I messed up. I was under the impression that would be my fate—a twelve-year prison sentence. They snapped a picture of my passport as we were leaving. So now you know: 300 of us stood in our pants, wholly exposed, waiting for someone to bring us clothes, and nobody could understand it all.
The raids allegedly occurred at the Secret Bar, Mono Bar, and Moscow's famous pop-up Hunters Party. This information was relayed by an employee of the gay bar Central Station, according to the independent Telegram news channel Sota.
According to Sota, the St. Petersburg Central Station Club declared its closure on Friday. The club's managers cited the "new law" as they could not remove the space further.
The two news sites shared footage showing a police vehicle outside what seems to be one of the locations, its lights flashing but its sirens off. At least two individuals, who seem to be law enforcement officials, are spotted at the venue's entrance.
No longer a resident of Russia, transgender blogger and LGBTQ activist Milana Petrova took to her Telegram channel to report on the raids.
Private LGBTQ gatherings, not nightclubs, were the targets of the raids, she claimed.
"Yesterday, there were no raids. Raids were conducted on specific adult LGBT gatherings. In that location, individuals' passports were photographed against their wishes, ostensibly for the sake of additional repression," Petrova shared on Sunday.
In her remarks, Petrova reminded the audience that the law had been released the day prior. "These laws are the most brutal this nation has ever seen," she continued.
Accusations that his club was raided were refuted by Alexey Khoroshy, the manager of the famous Mono homosexual bar. According to Khoroshy, the only event that was raided was the Moscow pop-up party.
"Hunters Party only conducted one narcotic raid yesterday. So, nothing has changed; we are still working. And always keep in mind that drugs are harmful! That was Khoroshy's statement.
According to another source who was present during the raid on the Hunters Party pop-up, the operation was described by the head as a typical drug raid.
But there was much-panicked chatter on a Hunters Party-affiliated internet forum.
"No one will be at peace anymore; we are now balancing between propaganda and extremism," stated a member of the group chat who was directly tied to the Hunters Party.
"I won't go anymore; it's too risky," said another.
No one from Russia has spoken out about the raids so yet. Attacks on state-run media, whether for ordinary drug operations or something else entirely, were not mentioned.
Numerous new laws have been passed in Russia that target members of the LGBTQ community.
It is now unlawful in Russia to advocate for same-sex partnerships or imply that non-heterosexual orientations are "normal." This new prohibition on so-called LGBTQ "propaganda" was signed into law by Putin late last year.
Putin gave his official approval to the restriction days before a strict new "foreign agents" law went into force; in response to the failure of Russia's military operation in Ukraine, the Kremlin is cracking down on free speech and human rights.
A law passed in 2013 prohibited the distribution of LGBTQ-related materials to children, but the new legislation greatly expanded its reach. With this latest version, the prohibition on advertising such content to adults is even broader.
Promoting or "praising" LGBTQ relationships, openly expressing non-heterosexual orientations, or suggesting that they are "normal" is currently prohibited in Russia.
Edited by: Marina Ramzy Mourid
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