A gay football fan has been hospitalised in Russia after a vicious attack ahead of the FIFA World Cup.
There have long been fears of violence against LGBT people travelling to the country for the tournament – which starts on June 14 – with the Government directing fans to advice telling them to hide their sexuality in public.
LGBT activist group Pride in Football also revealed that it had been sent death threats saying that any gay fans going to the World Cup would be hunted down and stabbed.
And it appears that these fears have been realised, with reports indicating that a gay couple – who had travelled to Russia to cheer on France – have been beaten in St Petersburg.
The pair were targeted after catching a taxi together, according to Telegram channel Operdrain, which reports news from police and other law agencies straight from the source.
The main victim, named as O. Davrius, was taken to the hospital, where doctors discovered that he had a brain contusion and open craniocerebral injury, as well as an upper jaw fracture.
The victims’ telephones and money were also taken during the horrific incident.
Two men in their 20s were arrested in connection with the attack. They were named as Ismet Gaidarov and Rasul Magomedov.
The news of the vicious beating comes the day after Russian gay rights activist Anton Krasovsky said that LGBT football fans were in danger at the World Cup.
He said: “Don’t take a stand in public. It’s not safe.”
To drive this point home, members of the Cossack Russian militia have said they will patrol a number of World Cup games to help police prevent gay men from kissing.
Over 300 Cossacks, an ethnic group of Russian paramilitaries, will reportedly patrol World Cup games in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don, close to the Ukranian border.
The city will host four World Cup group matches, as well as a Round of 16 game.
Russian Government minister Mikhail Degtyarev has estimated that around two million people will visit the country during the World Cup, which kicks off with the host nation taking on Saudi Arabia on Thursday.
Hate crimes against LGBT people have doubled in the country since Russia created a law banning gay “propaganda”.
The 2013 legislation, which prohibits “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships” towards minors, has been condemned by the European Court of Human Rights.
If you’re not travelling to the tournament and want to know who you should support if you’re basing your decision on LGBT rights, we have just the guide for you.