Source: Getty Images

Russian Gay Nightclub Owner, Two Employees Arrested Under Anti-LGBTQ+ 'Extremism' Law

Kilian Melloy READ TIME: 2 MIN.

The owner of a gay nightclub called Pose has been placed under arrest, along with two of the bar's employees, as Russia continues to ramp up its anti-LGBTQ+ persecution, The Moscow Times reported.

"Russian police allege that his venue promoted 'non-traditional sexual relationships' and prosecutors have accused him of conspiring with supporters of the 'international LGBT movement,'" Australian newspaper the Star Observer detailed.

The bar's owner, who had not been named in reports, "has now been added to Russia's official list of terrorists and extremists," the Star Observer went on to add, while "two employees, Diana Kamilianova and Aleksandr Klimov, were arrested and detained for allegedly 'creating a branch of an extremist organization,'" the report continued.

"Their arrests were a part of a police crackdown on 'LGBT extremism,' which saw police in riot gear storm the nightclub during a drag show."

The owner was subsequently taken into custody at an airport, reports detailed. All three detainees have been "remanded in custody together with his colleagues until May 18 on March 28," The Moscow Times added, citing rights watchdog OVD-Info.

The arrests mark a new level of anti-LGBTQ+ fervor in Russia, where the country's Supreme Court outlawed "LGBTQ+ activism" last November under the rubric of "extremism" and claims that LGBTQ+ advocates engaged in "incitement of social and religious discord..."

"Multiple rights activists have pointed out that the lawsuit targeted the 'international civic LGBT movement,' which is not an entity but rather a broad and vague definition that would allow Russian authorities to crack down on any individuals or groups deemed to be part of the 'movement,'" the Associated Press reported at the time.

Human rights lawyer Max Olenichev predicted when the ruling was made that "the Russian authorities, with this court ruling at hand, will enforce it against LGBTQ+ initiatives that work in Russia, considering them a part of this civic movement."

It didn't take long for Olenichev's words to start coming true. Within a week, reports surfaced of a Russian digital mapmaker compiling information on gay clubs in a sign that enforcement of the new measure had shifted from "activism" to LGBTQ+ social life.

Russia's increasing crackdown on LGBTQ+ people has been applauded by right-wing Christians worldwide, a phenomenon at least one scholar has tied to globally rising anti-democratic efforts.

If the goal in Russia is to erase LGBTQ+ people, the measures seem to be working. "Since the new laws came into force, many gay bars and LGBTQ+ spaces have shut down, or changed their format to be less visible, due to police pressure," noted the Star Observer.

Moreover, under current Russian policies, "Names of people on Russia's 'extremist/terrorist' list are published publicly on an official government website," the Star Observer reported. "Collaboration with any organization or person on this list is subject to criminal prosecution" and steep penalties. In the case of the gay bar owner and his two employees, the three defendants could be sentenced to 10 years.

by Kilian Melloy , EDGE Staff Reporter

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

Read These Next