Russian Police Raid Moscow Gay Bars Hours after Supreme Court’s LGBTQ+ Ruling

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Russian security forces raided gay clubs and bars across Moscow shortly after a ruling by the Supreme Court that labelled the country’s LGBTQ+ “movement” as an extremist organisation.

Russian security forces raided several gay clubs and bars in Moscow Friday night, less than 48 hours after the country’s Supreme Court banned the LGBTQ movement calling it an “extremist organisation”.

According to local media, police searched venues across the Russian capital, including a nightclub, a male sauna, and a bar that hosted LGBTQ parties, under the pretext of a drug raid.

Eyewitnesses told journalists that documents belonging to clubgoers were checked and photographed by the security services. They also said managers had been able to warn patrons before police arrived.

The raids came after Russia’s Supreme Court ruled that “the international LGBT public movement and its subdivisions” are now considered extremist and face a ban on their activities.

The ruling follows a lawsuit filed by the Justice Ministry and is the latest on a decades-long crackdown on LGBTQ rights under President Vladimir Putin who has advocated the values of a traditional family in Russia.

Activists have noted the lawsuit was lodged against a movement that is not an official entity, and that the broad and vague definition by the top court means authorities could potentially crack down on any individuals or groups who are deemed to be part of it.

Following the Supreme Court’s ruling, several gay establishments were forced to shut down operations including St. Petersburg’s gay club Central Station, which wrote Friday on social media that its owner would no longer allow the bar to operate with the law in effect.

Before the ruling, leading Russian human rights groups had filed a document with the Supreme Court that called the Justice Ministry lawsuit discriminatory and a violation of Russia’s constitution. Some LGBTQ+ activists tried to become a party in the case but were rebuffed by the court.

The Supreme Court hearing took place behind closed doors and without any defence present, and reporters were only allowed in to hear the decision.

The court ruling was the most drastic step so far with wide-reaching and as yet unknown ramifications. But it followed many other steps, which have only intensified after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, indicating the direction Russian authorities are taking.

Amid the Kremlin’s rhetoric about standing up to a “degrading” Western influence, politicians in June banned medical intervention and administrative procedures for gender reassignment, outlawing the practice as well as changing one’s gender in official documents and public records.

Last November, MPs approved a bill banning all forms of LGBTQ “propaganda” with far-reaching consequences for book publishing and film distribution, among other things.

Russian authorities have rejected accusations that they discriminate against LGBTQ people, with Deputy Justice Minister Andrei Loginov quoted as saying by local media earlier this month that “the rights of the LGBT people in Russia are protected” under the law.