As part of a documentary on gay rights Stephen Fry travelled to Russia in March to interview the author of St Petersburg’s notorious anti-gay propaganda bill, who told him gay teenagers do not face bullying for their sexuality.
Fry interviewed Vitaly Milonov, and reported that the two of them had been “going at it hammer and tongs”.
He also said their debate had included topics such as the bullying of LGBT youth.
Mr Milonov did not believe LGBT teens were tormented for their identity and claimed that teens pretended to be bullied in order to “indoctrinate” other youth.
He also claimed that liberalism had “destroyed” Britain by promoting gay rights.
Milonov doesn’t seem to believe there are teenagers bullied and tormented for being gay, he thinks they make it up & indoctrinate to minors
— Stephen Fry (@stephenfry) March 14, 2013
All very sad. He regards liberals as the destroyers of Europe “look at Britain, destroyed by liberalism” – his main obsession Kosovo tho
— Stephen Fry (@stephenfry) March 14, 2013
Upon leaving Russia, Fry commented: “I shall always love Russia and hope that its youth will not allow the toxic mix of nationalism and religious zealotry to destroy her.”
In May, around 30 activists from both pro and anti-LGBT factions were arrested at Moscow Pride, following antipathy to the perceived “gay propaganda” across Russia.
Police moved in as soon as the Pride-goers began unfurling rainbow flags and banners. They told the marchers, through megaphones, “Your rally is not sanctioned, you’re disrupting passers-by,” before pulling them into waiting police trucks.
Galina Kovtun, one of a few dozen Pride marchers present, said the detention of attendees was “disgusting and unjust … There is such a thing as freedom of speech, after all.”
Alexander Asman told Al Jazeera he was an observer who sympathised with the Pride marchers, adding: “It’s an outrage that they didn’t allow a gay parade … but I’m glad there weren’t fights as in Georgia.” Al Jazeera reported that he was arrested shortly after.
In July, four Dutch filmmakers were questioned by police for allegedly coming into conflict with the country’s newly-established “gay propaganda” laws.
Maria Kozlovskaya, a lawyer from a St Petersburg-based LGBT network, said the Dutch four were fined 3,000 roubles each (£61; $93) for violating visa rules
One of them, Kris van der Veen, a left-wing councillor from Groningen, the Netherlands, said they were not facing a court case.
He tweeted to say “after weird day, riding in car away from court. I believe indeed that there won’t be a case.”
“Instead of sitting on the plane, we’re still in Murmansk,” Mr Van der Veen wrote on Facebook.
“It’s about the documentary, homosexual propaganda. It’s going alright, but it’s not clear what to do next. There has been lots of support and help from activists and the consulate.”
In 2007, Peter Tatchell spoke to PinkNews after he was punched in the face by a suspected neo-Nazi and then arrested by Russian riot police in Moscow.
Nationalists and religious groups threw eggs and shouted slogans such as “Death to homosexuals.”
Mr Tatchell told PinkNews: “I urge people to protest to the Russian Ambassador and to ask their local MP to send a letter of protest to the Russian embassy.”
He added: “We also need a strong statement of condemnation from the Foreign Office, who have so far been silent. I am a British citizen violently attacked when mounting a lawful protests whilst the Russian police allowed violence to be perpetrated against me.”
A spokesman for the Foreign Office said: “We condemn violence in any form, but in this particular case we need to ascertain the full facts before making any further comment.”
Mr Tatchell told PinkNews: “There is no rule of law in Moscow. The right to protest does not exist. This is not a democracy.
“Today’s protest was about much more than gay rights. We were defending the right to freedom of expression and peaceful protest for all Russians, gay and straight.
“The ban on Moscow Gay Pride is one aspect of a much wider attack on civil society and human rights. It is evidence of a failed transition from communism to democracy and of a rising trend towards autocracy and authoritarianism”.
A Russian lawmaker took aim at Madonna and Lady Gaga in April, claiming that they violated their visa conditions when they performed shows in Russia, and that collecting money from their shows was therefore illegal.
The St Petersburg lawmaker, one of the sponsors of the city’s law which prohibits gay “propaganda”, requested an assessment of whether either singer violated immigration or tax laws while in Russia, back in August 2012.
He believes that the visa issued to Madonna exempted her from collecting money from her shows while performing there, and said that for her show in St Petersburg she received $1.1 million (£720,000).
The Prosecutor General’s office issued a response pertaining to both stars, saying: ”The visas issued were of the basic cultural exchange sort, which does not grant their bearers the right to engage in any commercial activity.”
“Why didn’t you arrest me when you had the chance, Russia? Because you didn’t want answer to the world?”
The singer also tweeted: “Sending bravery to LGBTs in Russia. The rise in government abuse is archaic. Hosing teenagers with pepper spray? Beatings? Mother Russia?”
Charges that Madonna broke a homophobic censorship ban in the Russian city of St Petersburg were dropped in November. Homophobic activists had tried to prosecute the US singer over accusations that she violated the city’s policy on the “promotion of homosexuality” among minors.
In August 2012, Russian feminist punk band Pussy Riot were jailed for two years for staging an anti-Vladimir Putin protest, with a song that mentioned the country’s persecuted LGBT citizens in a Moscow cathedral on 21 February 2012.
Judge Marina Syrova said the actions of the women had “crudely undermined social order”. She added that the crime was a conspiracy driven by hatred of religion and that the court did “not trust” the testimony of the band members because it would be used as an attempt to “evade justice”.
Judge Syrova added that the posting of the video was proof of the band trying to gain publicity by their “hooligan actions”. She also said the women had “deliberately placed themselves against Orthodox believers” and that the “jerking of limbs” during their protest performance was further proof of their hatred towards Christians.