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‘They asked each person: Are you a boy or a girl?’ Russian authorities increasingly raiding private parties in search of LGBT people

Source: Meduza

In November 2023, the Russian Supreme Court ruled to ban the “international LGBT movement” as an “extremist organization” — despite the fact that no such formal entity exists. Soon after the decision was passed, Russian security forces began conducting violent searches of private parties. In February alone, the authorities have raided parties, forcing attendees to lie face-down on the floor and asking them if they belong to the LGBTQ community, at least three times. In some cases, party guests were beaten. Journalists from the outlet Mediazona spoke to attendees of these events about what happened. Meduza summarizes their reporting in English.


Russia has banned the so-called ‘international LGBT movement’ What does this mean for queer people and activists living there?

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On February 21, the Russian TV network REN TV aired a segment about how security officials had raided a cottage in the town of Koltushi near St. Petersburg. According to the newscaster, the agents “shut down a provocative party” after finding “several dozen young people who couldn’t immediately name their own gender.” The report also said that items with “symbols of the LGBT movement, which is banned in Russia,” were found on the premises. Footage included in the segment showed about 10 people lying on the floor with their hands behind their heads. It also showed police interrogating people arrested at the party, asking questions such as “Do you consider yourself part of the LGBT movement?” and “Are you a boy or a girl?”

One of the attendees who spoke to Mediazona said that there were 16 people at the party and that they had gathered to celebrate a friend’s birthday. According to the source, the police burst into the cottage early in the morning on February 18 and forced everyone to lie on the floor. The officers lifted attendees up “by the hair and by the neck” before interrogating them on camera, according to the source, and the attendees ultimately spent five hours lying on the floor.

They made disgusting jokes, calling us obscene words, idiots, that kind of thing, and saying they wished we would die. They walked around asking each person, “Are you a boy or a girl?” And if they weren’t sure about somebody’s sex, they would send them to an investigator, where they were forced to show their body parts. They asked one girl to lift her skirt and tighten her leggings. My friend had to show scars from [surgery]. The whole time they were asking questions like, “Oh, where’s your penis? Where did you put it?”

That same day, law enforcement officials also raided a party that was dedicated to “openness and sexuality” at a cultural center in the city of Tula. According to the Telegram channel Ostorozhno, Novosti, police made some of the attendees go outside, where they proceeded to beat them. A video published by the channel shows a man who is reportedly a plainclothes officer beating a person lying in the snow. “Who are you talking to like that, you piece of shit?” the attacker says.

Another video published by the channel shows security officials bursting into a building and shouting, “Everybody on the floor!” and “Come here, you son of a bitch!”

One attendee described the raid to Mediazona:

They beat them, including people lying on the ground, with fists to their face, and kicked them. They interrogated them, while filming what was happening. They stripped them naked and made them squat, do push-ups, and sing the city anthem of Tula. They threw them face-down in the dirt, tased them, and poured water on them. The officers forced everyone to state their full name and educational institution, if they were studying, on a recording. They searched everyone and took photos of everyone’s passports, and they were constantly shouting about ‘LGBT.’

The person also said the party was “small” and that it “wasn’t positioned as an LGBT gathering.”

According to the local news outlet Tula Press, several people who attended the event were charged with spreading “LGBT propaganda.”

Another party was shut down by the authorities on February 9, but the raid wasn’t reported publicly until February 20, when an article titled “Activity of large LGBT community curbed in Petrozavodsk” appeared on a local news site in Russia’s Republic of Karelia. The report says that a “female resident of Petrozavodsk is suspected of organizing a community united by affiliation with LGBT culture” and that only “known representatives of the LGBT community” were allowed into the party: “The shocking list includes both men and women. It includes both married and divorced people. It also includes mothers, including some with three children.”

Additionally, on February 4, police raided a club in Yekaterinburg that was hosting a BDSM party called Blue Velvet. Only guests who purchased tickets in advance were allowed to attend the event, and a password was required for entry. The authorities said the raid was carried out for the purpose of “stabilizing the operational situation” in the city.

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