LGBT Pride in Petersburg: Thirty Activists Detained

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Yevgenia Litvinova
Facebook
August 4, 2018

A LGBT pride event was scheduled today, but the authorities refused to permit it, and it was decided we should limit ourselves to solo pickets on Palace Square. The protest was scheduled for 12:34 p.m. It looks pretty (1,2,3,4), but the time is horribly early for me.

But I remembered the words of Alexei Sergeyev and forced myself to get up.

“I hope solidarity is not an empty phrase for you. Maybe we have been together at architectural preservation marches and the Marches for Peace. Or we came out to support the striking truckers and women’s reproductive rights, protested against the destruction of confiscated produce, against corruption, against torture by the FSB, and mourned the murdered Boris Nemtsov. Maybe this is your first picket holding a flag or card. Or you are coming just to support us, to be with us. All of it matters. Every person counts.”

Alexei and I wound up on the same bus. We were running a bit late.

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On Palace Square, we saw crowds of patriotically minded Petersburgers. Many had dressed in camouflage and adorned themselves with St. George’s Ribbons. It transpirted that today was a party for Harley-Davidson motorcycles and their owners.

Palace Square was completely cordoned off and chockablock with cops.

I got held up, and when I got to the square, Alexei Sergeyev had already been detained. Then Alek Naza (Alexei Nazarov) was detained: he had no placard, only a rainbow flag. Before that 28 more people had been detained. That is a total of 30 people detained for trying to hold solo pickets [which, according to Russian law, can be held without permission and without notifying authorities in advance]. There are minors among them. Some have been taken to the 74th Police Precinct (in particular, Alexander Khmelyov), while a third group is still being held in a paddy wagon, as far as I know.

Information from witnesses: “Six of the people detained on Palace Square were dropped off at the 69th Police Precinct at 30/3 Marshal Zhukov Avenue, including Yuri Gavrikov, Alexei Sergeyev, and Tanya (Era) Sichkaryova. One of the detainees is an underaged girl. We have refused to be fingerprinted and photographed.”

I was taking pictures with Yelena Grigorieva’s camera. I don’t have those photos yet. I’m using ones that have already been published on group pages and the social media pages of the protesters.

Translated by the Russian Reader

UPDATE. Please do not credit the accounts of this incident published by Gay Star News, Gay Tourism, and True Media. I sent the following letter to them a few minutes ago.

Your websites published a very sketchy summary of a post I published on my blog The Russian Reader earlier this evening.

Namely, you characterized the source of my post, Yevgenia Litvinova, as a “LGBTI activist.” She is no such thing. She is a well-known opposition journalist and pro-democracy (anti-Putin) activist, whose organization, Democratic Russia, feels it important to show solidarity with the LGBTI movement in Petersburg. 

Please correct or delete this baseless speculation on your part or I’ll expose your bad journalistic practices on social media and my blog.

My blog is a copyleft website, but no one has the right to rip what I translate and write out of context—a context I know well because I’ve lived in Petersburg for 25 years—and fit it into a fake context that makes more sense to your readers, who, apparently, cannot imagine a non-LGBTI person would or could show solidarity with the LGBTI movement.

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Roskomnadzor Blocks Gay.Ru

gay.ruScreenshot of Gay.Ru courtesy of Russian LGBT Network

Roskomnadzor Blocks Major LGBT Website Gay.Ru
Russian LGBT Network
Facebook
March 30, 2018

The website Gay.Ru has been notified the information published on it has been included in the Unified Register of Prohibited Websites by decision of the Altai District Court in the village of Belyi Yar, Republic of Khakassia.

The website now contains the following warning.

“The basis for blocking [the website] was the posting of information promoting nontraditional sexual relations, which has been prohibited in the Russian Federation.”

The ruling was made by Judge Olga Kvasova. As is customary in cases concocted by the authorities, it is impossible to comprehend what exactly the court deemed promotion of homosexuality.

The plaintiffs in the case were the Altai District Prosecutor’s Office and the Yenisei branch office of Roskomnadzor, the Russian federal media and communications watchdog. The court’s verdict came into force on December 22, 2017.

Yesterday, the website received the standard letter from Roskomnadzor about needing to immediately delete information whose dissemination is forbidden in the Russian Federation.

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A screenshot of the homepage of Gay.Ru, taken on March 31, 2018. There is a reason why everyone in their right mind uses VPNs to surf the web in Russia. And no, Veronica, it is not against Russian law for individuals to use them.

“In order to ensure the rights of citizens and in compliance with current legislation, the information indicated above must be banned from dissemination in the Russian Federation, since unhindered access to the specified internet resource and the information posted on the website has been classified as prohibited information, meant to be disseminated amongst underaged children, to be capable of provoking in them an interest in nontraditional sexual relations, to distort notions of the social equivalence of traditional and nontraditional sexual relations, and to induce them to engage in nontraditional sexual relations, which poses a real threat to their health. In addition, dissemination of this information has a negative impact on the moral, spiritual, mental and physical development, on the health and safety of minors, and diminishes the value of family relations,” the court’s ruling reads.*

For twenty years, Gay.Ru has not only covered LGBT community news in Russia and the world but has also published articles on the cultural and social life of LGBT people, articles on health and HIV prevention, and studies of gender and sexuality.

* The original Russian ruling is rendered in such illiterate, ungrammatical Russian I wonder whether the judge or court clerk who wrote it went to school. TRR

Thanks to Igor Kochetkov for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader

How Dante Got Punched in the Kisser

Dante Teodori
October 26, 2015
Facebook

This is the story of how Dante got punched in the kisser and now bears all the hallmarks of an alleged real man.

Petersburg LGBT activist Dante Teodori
Petersburg LGBT activist Dante Teodori

I was going to the Rainbow Coffee Klatch on the subway today. I looked and saw this one guy eyeing me quite maliciously. The fellow was well built and dressed in sport clothes but dressed decently. After a while, he came up and leaned over me. (I was sitting down.) He told me either I could take off my scarf and scram from the car or he would kick my ass. (I have omitted the obscenities.) I refused. He smacked me in the face and split my lip. I took the second blow on the head and it split my eyebrow. Then some dude pushed him away.

I got out at a station and looked for the cops or some other official service, but there was no one. I got back on the train and pushed the hotline button to connect me to the driver, but it didn’t work. Well, okay, I thought, I will just go as I am. I asked people for napkins and telephoned the guys to come meet me in the subway, since I thought my nose was broken and I wouldn’t be able to see anything because of the blood. When I got there, the guys suggested calling an ambulance, since we didn’t know where the first-aid station was.

They took me to the hospital, since they didn’t like the look of the epic lump on my forehead. At the hospital, I was examined, stitched up, and sent home to heal.

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What is the moral of this story? I could have taken the scarf off. I could have have got out of the car. I had the chance. But I think this is the wrong position to take. “It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!” That is first and foremost.

Second, the scarf was not in the LGBT colors. It was knitted and given to me by a very nice woman with whom I was detained for waving the Ukrainian flag. What does this mean? That technically anyone wearing colorful clothes can get the crap beat of them.

And the most important thing. I think the only chance we have of getting closer to the future we want is to live as if it has already arrived.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Gabriel Levy for the suggestion. Photos courtesy of Dante Teodori’s Facebook page. This story has been covered widely in the local media. See, for example, “LGBT activist beaten over colorful scarf,” Paperpaper.ru, October 26, 2015 (in Russian).

Andrei Marchenko: Closing Statement in Court

The Closing Statement of Andrei Marchenko
Industrial District Court, Khabarovsk, September 30, 2015
Grani.Ru

Exactly one year and two months ago, I had a knock on the door around this time of day. The people knocking identified themselves as election campaigners, but then a huge crowd of people with a video camera turned on burst in as soon as I opened the door. Because of one sentence on the social network Facebook, the FSB had come in connection with the criminal investigation opened against me.

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Andrei Marchenko. Photo by Alla Viktorova. Courtesy of Grani.Ru

It was my first search and a lesson for the rest of my life. You should never be afraid of anything, and must know and defend your rights.

Let us start with the fact that I was shown the search warrant in passing, as well as IDs. Apparently that is why I still do not know the first names or surnames of the men who came to search my place. Next, I was denied a telephone call and not allowed to ask neighbors to act as official witnesses during the search. (The official witnesses were soldiers brought by the FSB themselves.)

Naturally, pressure was put on me during the search. But it lasted only until they had checked everything and realized that what they had come for was not in my house (nor could it have been there). There was no money from foreign sponsors, no extremist literature, nothing.

The only thing that gladdened my visitors was the business card of Elizabeth Macdonald, a US consul in Vladivostok, although I do not understand why it is forbidden to communicate with foreigners. In a daze, I signed the search record (which was also a mistake), and they left. They departed, leaving me with a summons to an interrogation.

May it please the court to know that from the outset I considered this criminal case political, and I still do. The charges were filed only to silence me and force me not to voice my personal opinion about the current political situation in the country and the world.

May it please the court to learn that when they were conducting their investigation before criminal charges were filed, the investigators from the FSB Khabarovsk regional office during their so-called private chat with me were intensely and primarily interested in my role in organizing a flash mob in Khabarovsk six years in a row to protest the homophobic policies of the Russian leadership. They asked about my friends from the Khabarovsk LGBT community (both generally and about specific people). They asked about my meetings with a representative of the US Consulate in Vladivostok during her visit to Khabarovsk. I stress it was this aspect of my life that primarily concerned the investigators.

The investigators were also interested in my political views and my personal opinion about the anti-terrorist operation in the east of Ukraine.

I venture to guess that the FSB was investigating me as a “gay foreign agent.”

But after searching my home and questioning witnesses, the investigators at the FSB’s Khabarovsk regional office decided, nevertheless, to charge me with extremism under Article 280, Part 1 [of the Russian Federal Criminal Code].

May it please the court to hear that the forensic examinations made it clear I am not a terrorist and extremist but a simple Russian citizen who takes to heart all the news happening both to Russian citizens and other peoples.

Your honor, when rendering the verdict, I ask you to take into account the propagandistic hysteria that the Russian state media fanned during the summer of 2014.

It was in May and June 2014 that round-the-clock hysteria about “Ukrofascists,” “Banderites,” “crucified boys,” and so on wafted from every TV set. Russians were really being zombified. But I had and have the opportunity to get accurate information from different sources, including Ukrainian, European and American news and analysis channels, and programs on the independent Russian TV station Rain and the radio stations Echo of Moscow and Radio Svoboda.

It was then that my freedom-loving mind (my whole life has been a struggle for justice, for compliance with human rights and freedoms) revolted against all this, and I decided I could freely express my value judgment among like-minded people and friends on the American social network Facebook, which is not subject to Russian laws.

But it turned out (this is in the case file) that my behavior and statements had been monitored for a long while. Although, as a popular blogger, I had heard about total surveillance, it was a shock to me when I learned I was on the list of those being monitored.

Your honor, when I posted the statement for which I have been charged, I was not inciting anyone to carry out acts of violence. It was my impulsive and, perhaps, overly emotional response to the rubbish broadcast that night (Far Eastern Time) by Russian state television.

And, as follows from the results of the forensic examination (volume 2, pages 9–15), the post was my way of expressing my negative attitude towards a specific group of people in Russia who are supporters of fascism and terrorism, and who forcibly seized the territory of another country, Ukraine. I think that, just like me, every honest Russian citizen has a negative attitude towards this group of so-called volunteers. I should emphasize that, according to legal experts at the SOVA Center for Information and Analysis, the current prosecution under Article 280 is unlawful. “Citizens of Russia [who are] supporters of fascism and terrorism and forcibly seized Ukrainian territory” are not a group protected by anti-extremist legislation and, therefore, the use of violence against this group cannot constitute foul play as stipulated by Article 280.

Your honor, I would also like to emphasize that publication of the post mentioned in the charges was nothing more than an expression of my personal point of view. I just wanted to draw attention to the news, to the lies of the propagandists on state television (using their own way of putting things), and to my [Facebook] page.

Your honor, as I have said, this case is purely political and was initiated not because of extremism, but because I, being openly gay and a media figure, have been very civically active and express my opinion, which differs from the general ideological line in Putin-era Russia.

Translated by the Russian Reader


Editor’s Note. According to Grani.Ru, Judge Galina Nikolayeva adjourned the trial until ten o’clock tomorrow morning, Thursday, October 1. It is expected she will announce a verdict in the trial then.

Update. According to an article on the news website Vostok-Media, on October 1, 2015, the Industrial District Court in Khabarovsk found Andrei Marchenko guilty as charged and sentenced him to a fine of 100,000 rubles, but immediately amnestied him as part of a general amnesty celebrating the seventieth anniversary of victory in the Second World War.

Andrei Marchenko celebrating his virtual victory in court. Photo courtesy of Vostok-Media
Andrei Marchenko celebrating his virtual victory in court. Photo courtesy of Vostok-Media

The “Gay Terrorist Underground” in Khabarovsk: The Case of Andrei Marchenko

Prosecutor Requests Two Years in Open Penal Settlement for Khabarovsk Blogger Marchenko
September 28, 2015
Grani.Ru

Prosecutor Olesya Demina has asked Khabarovsk’s Industrial District Court to sentence blogger and LGBT activist Andrei Marchenko to two years in an open penal settlement, as reported by Grani.Ru’s correspondent from the courtroom. Marchenko has been accused of extremism for posts he made on Facebook.

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Andrei Marchenko outside of Industrial District Court in Khabarovsk. Photo by Alla Viktorova. Courtesy of Grani.Ru

During closing arguments, defense attorney Natalya Gladych drew the court’s attention to Marchenko’s positive character references, as well as the findings of a psychologist, who concluded that the defendant’s only purpose had been to draw attention to himself and to his position on the war in the east of Ukraine.

“Two years in an open penal settlement is an excessively severe punishment given that the evidence presented by the prosecution is insufficient. The prosecutor speaks of Marchenko as an out-and-out extremist, although the man was simply expressing his opinion. The harsh form in which he delivered it was due only to heightened emotionality,” said Gladych.

On Monday, the defendant was to make his closing statement, but Judge Galina Nikolayeva unexpectedly adjourned until Wednesday, September 30, when Marchenko will deliver his closing statement and the judge will return a verdict.

“I did not expect that the prosecution would request real prison time. There is not a single injured party in the case. There is only the one sentence on Facebook, which did not lead to any real consequences. And for this the representative of the state machine asks the court to sentence me to real prison time,” Marchenko commented to Grani.ru after the hearing.

Marchenko has pleaded not guilty and hopes for an acquittal.

On June 8, 2014, Trinity Sunday, Marchenko published a post on Facebook dealing with the events in the east of Ukraine.

“Impale all the terrorists!!!!!!!!” he wrote. “Kill all of them!! Blood Sunday! Free Ukraine from the fascist Russian terrorists on Trinity Sunday!”

The post was made visible only to Marchenko’s friends in the social network. Nevertheless, it was this publication that led to the blogger’s prosecution.

On August 28, 2014, FSB officers carried out a search at Marchenko’s home during which they seized all his office equipment and mobile phones. The following day, the blogger was charged at regional FSB headquarters under Article 280, Part 1 of the Criminal Code (public incitement to extremism)

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Andrei Marchenko. Photo courtesy of amurburg.ru

A week before the raid, the blogger had also been summoned to regional FSB headquarters. There he was shown screenshots of a certain site according to which Marchenko and another Khabarovsk LGBT activist, Alexander Yermoshkin, were the founders and masterminds of a “gay terrorist underground” that were pursuing the goal of organizing an “orange revolution” in Khabarovsk. As Marchenko noted, the FSB investigator was “utterly serious.” Marchenko was then asked why he did not like “Novorossiya.” He was told that his numerous posts in support of Ukraine and criticizing the Kremlin were the reason for the FSB’s concern.

On September 11, 2014, another five phrases from Marchenko’s summertime posts were sent off for forensic examination.

“Including phrases in support of Poroshenko and phrases about the fact that prices are higher but Crimea is ours,” wrote the blogger.

Two weeks later, it transpired that Rosfinmonitoring had placed Marchenko on its list of terrorists and extremists. However, the blogger kept his bank accounts only for withdrawing money he earned through official freelance bureaus from the WebMoney system. For many years, these earnings had been Marchenko’s only source of income. Thus, Rosfinmonitoring’s decision left the activist penniless.

“Now I don’t even have money for groceries,” wrote Marchenko.

The blogger expressed bewilderment at his inclusion in the list, noting that the court had not yet deemed him either a terrorist or an extremist.

On December 30, 2014, final charges were filed against Marchenko.

Translated by the Russian Reader

NB. Grani.Ru, the opposition news and commentary website that published this article about Andrei Marchenko’s plight is itself banned in Russia as “extremist” and can only be viewed there through VPNs, anonymizers, and mirror sites.

Update. According to an article on the news website Vostok-Media, on October 1, 2015, the Industrial District Court in Khabarovsk found Andrei Marchenko guilty as charged and sentenced him to a fine of 100,000 rubles, but immediately amnestied him as part of a general amnesty celebrating the seventieth anniversary of victory in the Second World War.

Andrei Marchenko celebrating his virtual victory in court. Photo courtesy of Vostok-Media
Andrei Marchenko celebrating his virtual victory in court. Photo courtesy of Vostok-Media

Kirill Kalugin: “My Freedom Defends Yours”

On August 2, 2013, Russian Paratroopers Day, Kirill Kalugin, a Petersburg university student, took to the city’s Palace Square alone to protest the country’s new anti-gay laws. He was immediately set upon by reveling paratroopers (or as he himself suggested, by national activists masquerading as paratroopers), an incident captured on video by Petersburg news web site Paper Paper.

Kalugin returned to Palace Square this year on August 2 to protest Russia’s increasing militarism and imperialist misadventures in Ukraine. He was roughly detained by police some fifteen seconds after attempting to unfurl a rainbow flag emblazoned with the slogan, “My freedom defends yours.” Despite the fact that Kalugin held his anniversary protest right next to Manifesta 10’s provocative metallic Xmas tree, his protest has so far gone unremarked by progressive humanity (i.e., the international contemporary arts community) and the foreign press.

The interview below was published in August 2013 on the local Petersburg news web site Rosbalt three weeks after Kalugin’s first protest on Palace Square. Unfortunately, it hasn’t lost any of its timeliness, especially given the total absence of an anti-war movement in Russia and the singularity of Kalugin’s bravery and insight.

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Saint Petersburg State University student Kirill Kalugin is half the age of his eminent opponent, Petersburg Legislative Assembly member Vitaly Milonov, although he is also a redhead. But hair color is not the only thing the outspoken homophobe and outspoken gay have in common. Both claim they love their motherland Russia and will never leave it. 

Rosbalt’s Yevgeny Zubarev met with Kalugin in the city center, on Arts Square. It’s a safe place because it is always chockablock with police. There were also lots of police on Palace Square on August 2, [2013], when Kalugin came there alone and unfurled a rainbow flag, but even a platoon of riot police was not immediately able to wrest him away from an agitated crowd dressed in striped shirts for Russian Paratroopers Day.

 — Why did you do it, Kirill? Weren’t you frightened?

— I was frightened. Actually, there were supposed to be four of us out there, but then I ended up going out alone. If there had been several people, the police could have charged us with holding an unauthorized rally, but this way it was a solo picket, which doesn’t require permission. As soon as I unfurled the rainbow flag, men in [traditional Russian paratrooper] striped shirts grabbed me. But I don’t think they were paratroopers: I had seen many of the assailants earlier at anti-LGBT protests. I think they were nationalist activists masquerading as paratroopers. The police pulled me from the crowd and put me in a car, but we couldn’t leave right away: the crowd blocked the car, demanding that the police give me up. The riot police intervened and cleared a path, and I was taken to the 78th police precinct.

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— What did police charge you with? How were you punished?

— I don’t understand it myself. At first they wouldn’t let me make a phone call. The sergeants behaved rudely, and I couldn’t figure out what my status was, whether I had been detained, arrested or was considered a suspect. Right there at the police station one of the detained paratroopers rushed me: he wanted to beat me up, but the police held him back. Then the brass arrived and everything immediately changed: the police started talking with me politely. It turned out I wasn’t being charged with anything. They even let me file an assault complaint. But how that case has turned out, I don’t know: it has been twenty days, but I have had no word from the police.

— After this incident, Russian Orthodox patriots wrote several petitions to Saint Petersburg State University demanding your expulsion.

— I’m a student in the physics department, specializing in medical physics and bioengineering. It’s a tough department, and there is a lot of studying to do. What matters to the deans is that students take all their exams and tests on time, but they are unconcerned about their private lives. Generally, it is not kosher in the scientific community to tell people how they should behave in the intimate realm. So I’m confident all these petitions are pointless.

— Your family must have seen how you were beaten on Palace Square on the Web or on TV. What was their reaction?

— I was born to an ordinary Russian family in the town of Krasnoturyinsk in the Urals. My father is an officer in the Russian armed forces, my mother, a philologist. After the 2008 crisis, life in our town got really bad and we moved to Petersburg, where I finished high school, enrolled at the university, and began to live separately from my family. It was only then I told my parents I was gay. My parents were upset, especially my father, but they recognized my right to live as I see fit. My brother also said it was my choice. When I went out on Palace Square, they heard about it in the media. They called me and were worried, of course. But I assured them I was not in danger.

— How many times have you been beaten up in Petersburg for being gay?

— Never, except for the incident at Palace Square. My classmates at university and my employers at the restaurant where I work part time as a bartender do not care what I do in bed. Of course, after this incident I could have been recognized on the street and beaten up, but that hasn’t happened yet.

— There are thousands of commentators on the Web who are sure you went out on Palace Square to secure the right to emigrate to the west as a discriminated person.

— I don’t intend to leave Russia. I am sure all these homophobic laws will be repealed sooner or later, and all Russian citizens will be able to live normally regardless of sexual orientation. There were similar laws in Sweden thirty years ago, and gays were persecuted throughout the world the way they now are in Russia. But then the situation changed. I am sure that Russia also has to follow this path, and so I’m not going to leave. But change doesn’t happen by itself—people have to take to the streets and speak out about this problem.

— Why do you act alone? There are lots of public organizations in Russia that support gays. Many of them receive foreign grants. You could get this money to fight for equality and all that, no?

— I don’t want to. I’ve had offers to join various organizations like that, but I don’t want to. I’m not a politician. I just don’t want there to be discrimination against people like me. Besides, it is easier for the state to punish organizations than lone individuals. Organizations are more vulnerable. What are they going to do with an ordinary guy like me?

— When you finish university you’ll find that jobs in your scientific specialty are poorly paid and dead ends. This is another reason, aside from sexual orientation, for going abroad.

— I still won’t leave. I know how things are going with financing for science in Russia, but I don’t want to leave. In the end, there are grants given to scientists for in-demand research. And in fact, Russia is changing for the better; the situation is improving in science, too.

— You have the opportunity to address Rosbalt’s thousands of readers. What would say to all these people?

— I would appeal to people like me. Don’t sit quiet as mice. At least come out. Let your loved ones know that you exist.

 — Why can’t you sit quiet and keep a low profile? Why do you come up with these public protests during which you can be beaten or even killed? After all, there is no practical sense to them.

 — Can I quote Goethe? “He alone deserves liberty and life who daily must win them anew.”

— How old are you?

 — Twenty-one.

Originally published, in Russian, by Rosbalt on August 22, 2013. Photo courtesy of Rosbalt

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Explaining his protest [on August 2, 2014], Kalugin said it was directed against both the lack of civil freedoms and the growing militarism in Russia during the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

“The suppression of any civil freedoms and the growth of imperial chauvinism in Russia are interconnected, and the issue has one and the same root,” he said.

“As long as there remains at least one group that is seen as ‘second-rate people’ in the country, the rest cannot call themselves free. Even if they enjoy some preferences now, this system can hit them, too, sooner or later.

“All this has grown so much that it has already started spreading into the neighboring states. The same people, who cried ‘Death to gays’ and hailed the laws banning ‘gay propaganda’ and restricting public assemblies, ended up shouting ‘Crimea is ours’ and going to Donetsk and Luhansk.”

Airborne Troops Day in St. Petersburg is known for the large number of airborne veterans gathering in the city center, drinking, swimming in fountains and, at times, getting out of control, with the police usually ignoring any misconduct.

Kalugin said that he chose to stage his protest on that day because he sees the festivities as the “climax of militarism and chauvinism.” He said it was also his reaction to homophobic jokes, where LGBT people were mockingly invited to hold their protests on Airborne Troops Day—the underlying notion being that they would be immediately be beaten by homophobic airborne veterans.

“It’s an old joke from the times when LGBT pride events were held in Moscow, [Moscow’s anti-gay ex-mayor Yury] Luzhkov used to say that he would only agree if it was held on Aug. 2,” Kalugin said.

source: St. Petersburg Times