Russian officials bugged a private strategy meeting of LGBT activists recently, and used the recording as part of a public television exposé on the “threat to Russia” posed by the “homosexualists who attempt to infiltrate our country.”
Buzzfeed reports the surveillance audio, gathered in October, was revealed on public television Tuesday.
It was included as part of a broadcast called “Special Correspondent” on Russia’s relation to the LGBT community ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games, which many activists have called for a boycott over due to anti-gay laws in the country.
The Open Society Foundation, which was founded by financier George Soros, alongside representatives of six Russian LGBT organisations, together with the Human Rights Watch, the Human Rights Campaign, and All Out, were recorded without their knowledge during a meeting at the Holiday Inn in St Petersburg on October 12th and 13th.
The meeting was intended to plan how to respond to Russia’s crackdown on gay rights ahead of the Olympics.
However, as shown in the broadcast footage, Special Correspondent portrayed the recording as “a for-reasons-unclear, closed-to-the-public conference funded by the Soros Foundation [organised because] foreigners were afraid the LGBT-isation of Russia is going too slowly.”
In the featured audio, one voice talked about campaigns that could be organised by Pride House International, which was banned from sponsoring its own space in the Olympic Village due to Russia’s “gay propaganda” legislation, signed into law in June.
Another voice, thought to be Igor Kochetkov of the Russian LGBT network, thanked “all Western organisations and everybody who has supported us and plugged into our campaign over the past year.”
He also added that he was frustrated with Olympic sponsors who remained silent over Russia’s crackdown on its gay community.
He said: “There’s one very large sponsor, an automobile company, that absolutely refuses to talk about homosexuality.
“And they say that even if there will be some support from on top — not even financial help, just moral support — they won’t have anything to do with it because they’re very worried if could negatively impact sales. The same goes for the other sponsors.”
Special Correspondent’s host depicted these words as an example of an “excessively radical, aggressive propaganda” that is dragging Russia into “a war” with the West.
Political analyst Alexei Mukhin, who appeared during the broadcast, agreed and said it would be good if “the traditional part of society and the LGBT community learn to live together.”
He added that the only other possible scenario is “a gay revolution, in which Western society will openly interfere in Russia’s internal affairs.”
The program’s correspondent, Alexander Buzaladze, also warned: “The attack on Russia is already in full-swing.”
He added that “massive LGBT propaganda” could be used to enforce same-sex marriage and other gay rights in the country.
Maxim Anmeghichean, program officer with the Open Society Foundation’s LGBTI Rights Initiative, told Buzzfeed: “The goal of that meeting was to try to connect the Russians to what was happening globally. There was so much to respond to, and there were [just] a couple organizations that are tiny.”
Minky Worden, Director of Global Initiatives at the Human Rights Watch, also said: “Russia should get a gold metal in Olympic spying.”
She added: “At a time when Russia ought to be unfurling the red carpet to the international community, it is instead increasingly operating with a Soviet approach.
“This is blatant targeting of gay activists for Soviet-like surveillance, and then using material selectively to stoke an anti-gay campaign broadcast to millions across Russia.
“It really ought to make the IOC and the Olympic sponsors — plus Olympic athletes and other governments — profoundly nervous because it gives the lie to the so-called ‘assurances’ by the Russian Government and the IOC that the anti-gay law will not be enforced during the Olympic games.”