Russia is introducing harsher rules for film screenings – that could be used to crack down on LGBT cinema.

The new rules for obtaining exhibition licenses impose harsh new regulations, making it harder for exhibitors to obtain licenses.

The law says the authorities can refuse licenses to films for “defiling the national culture, posing a threat to national unity and undermining the foundations of the constitutional order”.

The legislation – which is currently going through the government’s review process – had initially been due to come in this month.

Director Andrei Proshkin told Interfax: “Who is going to decide that the culture has been besmeared? The ministry? The public? A court? And on the basis of what?

“How do you determine legally that the culture has been besmeared? And what can besmear a culture more in the 21st century than such laws?”

Daniil Dondurei of film magazine Iskusstvo Kino asked: “What is ‘national unity’? This is a completely new term, it didn’t exist in the past. In the past, all we had was [the term] anti-Soviet propaganda.”

In October, anti-gay activists in Russia claimed that the screening of a documentary about gay teens violated the country’s notorious law “gay propaganda” laws.

In 2013, a Russian LGBT film festival was been targeted under “foreign agent” laws, and fined a substantial amount for allegedly failing to declare foreign funding, which organisers deny having received.