Russian Gay Club Manager Seeks Asylum In US After Attacks
The former manager of Central Station, Moscow's biggest gay nightclub came to the United States last month and is seeking asylum, after the club was the target of a number of violent attacks in recent months.
In an exclusive report by the Washington Blade, Arkady Gyngazov, who is currently in Washington, D.C., says a pro bono lawyer has taken his case and that he is also working with Larry Poltavtsev of Spectrum Human Rights, which keeps track of the Kremlin's LGBT rights record.
"I'm not going to go back to Russia because I feel my safety, even my life, is threatened," Gyngazov said to the Blade's Michael Lavers. He added that he will formally seek asylum once his visa expires in June.
According to the Blade article, Gyngazov, 32, who was the manger of the Central Station nightclub grew up in the Siberian city of Tomsk and moved to Moscow in 2006. He told the newspaper he is not out to his family even though he knew he was gay since he was a child.
He also said that being gay in Russia was easier in the 90s than now and was shocked when Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the "homosexual propaganda" legislation into law.
"He's making a dictatorship, like the Soviet Union two," Gyngazov told the Blade.
In recent months, Central Station has been the site of several publicized attacks.
On Nov. 16, two armed men tried to enter the club and opened fire around 5 a.m., after bouncers refused to let them in. The bullets damaged the club's front door but there were no injuries reported.
Another incident occurred on Nov. 23 when unknown attackers sprayed poison gas in the club, which contained about 500 people. Thankfully, Central Station's staff quickly turned on a smoke removal machine, which removed the gas in just a few minutes.
Central Station once again came under attack in December when a mob of more than 100 people dismantled the roof of the building. The attackers took the roof apart while inside the club's attic, and in the process stole some of the club's utility equipment.
Central Station's owner, Andrei Lishchinsky, wrote a letter to Putin about the treatment of the LGBT community in the country, also condemning the anti-gay law. He also outlined the club's latest attack:
"The building was seized by a professional raiding company that served the interests of unknown foreign legal entities that ordered multiple illegal actions against LGBT visitors of the club," he wrote. "These actions were obviously motivated by hatred toward representatives of the LGBT community and had a clear extremist tone."
Lishchinsky also said the club has been attacked more than 20 times in the last few months. He said police officials have not responded to the more than 30 complaints the club officials have filed.
The authorities have not identified the perpetrators but reports suggest the latest attack was carried out by the owners of the building where the club is located, following a dispute between them and the club's staff.