Russian police raids LGBTQ bar under extremism charges

The Kremlin has intensified its conservative rhetoric since its military attack on Ukraine two years ago, presenting the conflict as a battlefield against the West and its values.

The owner of a popular gay bar in the Russian city of Orenburg has been arrested for “extremism,” according to rights groups on Sunday, at a time when authorities are cracking down on the LGBTQ community.

Police and local nationalists raided the “Pose” bar in Orenburg, in the country’s south, earlier this month during a drag show, subsequently arresting its manager and artistic director in the first such criminal case.

The bar owner was detained three days ago at a Moscow airport and is now in pre-trial detention along with colleagues until May 18, as reported by the rights group OVD-Info.

Prosecutors accuse the man of conspiring with supporters of the “international LGBT movement,” an entity Russia has deemed “extremist,” the Orenburg Central District Court said Sunday.

The bar owner, not named, and his two employees face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

On March 9, police raided the bar, where “drag” shows were held.

Riot police entered the establishment with support from members of the nationalist movement Russian Community of Orenburg. The Interior Ministry then reported having “thwarted the activity of a nightclub, where representatives of a movement banned in Russia gathered.” According to authorities, the establishment “propagated the LGBT movement, prohibited in Russia.”

Customers and workers were humiliated and interrogated for the activities of the “faggot club,” according to a video posted by the Kremlin-affiliated group itself.

On Wednesday, March 20, Russian justice ordered pre-trial detention for the artistic director and the bar manager after accusing them of extremism.

The Kremlin has intensified its conservative rhetoric since its military attack on Ukraine two years ago, presenting the conflict as a battlefield against the West and its values.

In this context, Russia’s Supreme Court banned the International Social Movement LGBT in November 2023 in this country, considering it an “extremist organization” at the request of the Ministry of Justice.

The ministry highlighted that the group originated in the United States and has been present in Russia since 1984. Its purpose is to “control birth rates and promote non-traditional family relationships,” according to the government.

The measure prohibits propaganda, advertising, generating interest, and encouraging joining the ranks of the LGBT movement.

In November 2022, the State Duma (lower house of parliament) passed a law completely banning LGBT propaganda, pedophilia, and sex change operations.

In addition, in June, it banned sex change surgeries, causing great alarm among the transgender community.

Russian authorities claim there is no discrimination or persecution of the homosexual community in the country and that the ban on public demonstrations by that group reflects Russia’s moral values.

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