Queer nightclub employees arrested in Russia over drag show

This case comes after years of anti-LGBTQ+ hostility from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was re-elected on March 17.

Two people arrested in Russia during a drag show, with police holding them behind bars.
Image: Via Twitter - @mediazona_en, Ural56

Authorities in Russia have arrested two employees during a raid at a queer nightclub that was hosting a drag show. While other individuals have been charged with misdemeanour in the past months, this is believed to be the first criminal “extremism” case of its kind against members of the queer community in the country since the Russian Supreme Court banned the LGBTQ+ movement last November.

On March 12, police conducted a raid on the Pose nightclub in the Russian city of Orenburg while a drag show was taking place, forcing patrons and guests to lie face down on the floor. In conducting the raid, the police were reportedly assisted by members of the Russian Community of Orenburg, a pro-war nationalist group who alerted the authorities to the club’s “activities”.

The group later posted a video of the event on its Telegram channel, as well as a list of items seized at Pose. The list included video recorders, laptops and smartphones, as well as several pieces of clothing, 15 wigs and a set of fake breasts. The performing drag queens were kept half-naked during the raid as their outfits were confiscated.

On Wednesday, March 20, the Central District Court in Orenburg, Russia, ruled that Pose club manager Diana Kamilyanova and art director Aleksandr Klimov, who were arrested during the drag show, are to remain in pre-trial detention until May 18. On the court’s website, a statement describes the two individuals as “persons with non-traditional sexual orientations” who “support the views and activities of the international LGBT public association banned in our country.”

The art director stands accused of selecting the drag artists for the performance, while the club manager was charged in relation to filming videos of the show. The two are facing up to 10 years in prison if they are found guilty of “organizing extremist activities”. This makes it the first case where members of the Russian queer community face such severe criminal charges since the Supreme Court banned the “international LGBTQ+ movement” for extremism.


On November 30 last year, the Russian Supreme Court passed a motion to label the international LGBTQ+ movement an “extremist organisation”. After the decision, activists noted that the motion was lodged against a movement that is not an official entity and that, because of its broad and vague definition, it could be used to crack down on all LGBTQ+ individuals and groups deemed to be part of it by authorities.

Since then, other individuals have been charged with misdemeanour and fined in relation to the ban, including a woman who was convicted for wearing rainbow earrings.

In a statement released after news of the Pose arrests surfaced, Amnesty International’s Russia Director Natalia Zviagina said: “What LGBTI persons and human rights activists have feared since the end of last year has finally come to pass.”

Zviagina continued: “It’s particularly reprehensible that members of a Russian nationalist group were allowed to assist the police in their raid of the drag show at Pose club in Orenburg, southwestern Russia, earlier this month. Such cooperation between law enforcement and nationalist activists fosters an environment of impunity for homophobic and transphobic attacks and instigates a climate of fear among LGBTI persons.

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

This “extremism” criminal case comes after years of hostility from Russian President Vladimir Putin against the LGBTQ+ community. In his many years in power, Putin has demonised the community as part of its crusade against “Western liberalism”. On Sunday, March 17, Putin won 87.8% of the vote in the Russian elections, becoming the country’s longest-serving leader in over 200 years if he completes this new term.

While the official results indicated that the polls were accurate, several countries around the world, including the United States, Germany and the United Kingdom, have stated that the vote could not be free and fair due to the imprisonment of political opponents and censorship.

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