Russian security forces have raided gay clubs and bars across Moscow shortly after a ruling by the country’s top court that designated the LGBTQ movement as “extremist”.
Police officers searched venues across the Russian capital late on Friday, including a nightclub, a male sauna and a bar that hosted LGBTQ parties, under the pretext of a drug raid, according to local media.
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Witnesses told journalists that clubgoers’ documents were checked and photographed by the security services. They also said that managers had been able to warn patrons before police arrived.
The raids come less than 48 hours after Russia’s Supreme Court ruled that “the international LGBT public movement and its subdivisions” are now considered extremist and face a ban on their activities.
Activists have said the broad and vague definition by the top court means that the authorities could potentially crack down on any individuals or groups who are deemed to be part of the movement.
The ruling could therefore signal an effective ban on all organised activity in favour of LGBTQ rights.
During a decade-long crackdown on LGBTQ rights under his rule, Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly emphasised “traditional family values”.
The court ruling was the most drastic step so far with wide-reaching and as yet unknown ramifications. But it followed many other steps, which have only intensified after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, indicating the direction Russian authorities are taking.
Amid the Kremlin’s rhetoric about standing up to a “degrading” Western influence, politicians in June banned medical intervention and administrative procedures for gender reassignment, outlawing the practice as well as changing one’s gender in official documents and public records.
Last November, MPs approved a bill banning all forms of LGBTQ “propaganda” with far-reaching consequences for book publishing and film distribution, among other things.
Before the latest ruling on Thursday, Russian rights groups had filed a document with the Supreme Court that called a Justice Ministry lawsuit that led to the ruling discriminatory and a violation of the constitution.
A number of LGBTQ activists were rejected in their attempts to become formal parties in the case. The Supreme Court hearing took place behind closed doors and without any defence present, and reporters were only allowed in to hear the decision.
Russian authorities have rejected accusations that they discriminate against LGBTQ people.
Deputy Justice Minister Andrei Loginov was quoted as saying by local media earlier this month that “the rights of the LGBT people in Russia are protected” under the law.
While presenting a report on human rights in Russia to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, he said “restraining public demonstration of nontraditional sexual relationships or preferences is not a form of censure for them”.