Russian LGBTQ+ nightclub owner arrested following police raid

On March 28, the owner of the Russian queer nightclub Pose was arrested in Moscow Airport for “organizing an extremist community”.

The picture shows protesters holding antiwar and LGBTQ+ flags in reaction to Russia's situation.
Image: Via Shutterstock: Iryna Imago

The owner of the LGBTQ+ nightclub Pose in Russia was arrested on March 28 at Moscow Airport following a raid in the venue last month. The individual, who was not named, is the third person to be arrested as a result of the incident and is now in pre-trial jail charged with “organizing an extremist community”.

The raid was led by Russian riot police and the Ministry of International Affairs, and this is considered to be the first case of criminal “extremism” since the so-called “LGBT international movement” was banned by the Russian Supreme Court last November.

The raid took place on March 12 during a drag show at Pose in Orenburg, Russia, as a pro-war nationalist group alerted the police of the club’s “activities”. The organisation, namely the Russian Community of Orenburg, reportedly assisted the police in carrying out the raid, forcing employees and attendees to the floor.

The Pose owner is now held alongside two employees of the LGBTQ+ venue, Diana Kamilyanova, club manager and Aleksandr Klimov, artistic director, who were arrested days after the raid in Russia. Both employees were charged by the Orenburg court on March 20, for supporting “views and activities of the banned international public associations of LGBT people” and being “persons of non-traditional sexual orientation”.

According to OVD-Info, an independent media and human rights group, the three individuals will be held in custody until May 18. If found guilty of “organising extremist activities” for hiring and filming drag performers, they can face up to 10 years in prison.

Since the Supreme Court decision in November 2023 to ban the “LGBT international movement” and classify it as extremist, activists have stressed that the definition is vague and poorly defined, putting any queer individuals or groups at risk. The ruling has resulted in several individuals being charged with misdemeanours, and at least three LGBTQ+ organisations shutting down out of fear. There has additionally been an increase in police raids in queer spaces in Russia, targeting the LGBTQ+ community and anyone who supports them.

Furthermore, as the rainbow flag is considered to be a symbol of the “LGBT international movement”, it is illegal to display such items. Punishments include fines from 1,000 to 100,000 rubles (€10.06 to €25.27) and a first offence leads to 15 days in jail with a repeated offence resulting in up to four years in jail. In the past months, a photographer was forced to pay a fine for having a rainbow flag on his Instagram, and a woman was held five days in jail for wearing rainbow earrings.

This is the latest attempt by Vladimir Putin’s government to crackdown against LGBTQ+ activism and individuals in Russia. In 2023, the country banned most gender-affirming care, and in 2022, it passed an amendment expanding the prohibiting of spreading so-called ‘LGBTQ+ propaganda’ to all ages, which was first introduced in 2013 for minors.

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