Russian Supreme Court Declares LGBTQ+ Movement ‘Extremist’, Triggers Police Raids

In a recent development, Russian law enforcement agencies have initiated a series of crackdowns on gay bars and other LGBTQ+ venues in Moscow. This action follows the country’s supreme court ruling that declared the LGBTQ+ movement in Russia as “extremist,” effectively outlawing the community.

The court’s decision was announced on Friday, following a four-hour closed-door session. Journalists were only permitted inside the courtroom for the reading of the verdict by Judge Oleg Nefedov. The details of the court’s deliberations were kept under wraps, with the authorities only revealing that they had identified “signs and manifestations of an extremist nature” within the LGBTQ+ movement, including the “incitement of social and religious discord.”

The ruling is a result of a lawsuit filed by the Russian Justice Ministry and is seen as a continuation of President Vladimir Putin’s ongoing campaign against the LGBTQ+ community. Marie Struthers, the regional director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia for Amnesty International, expressed grave concerns about the ruling’s potential impact, stating that it could have catastrophic repercussions for countless individuals.

Critics have raised questions about the legality of the court’s decision and the Justice Ministry’s authority to file the lawsuit. Among those who attempted to challenge the move was Igor Kochetkov, founder of the Russian LGBT Network. Kochetkov expressed his frustration at the ruling, stating that he had tried to appeal to the court’s common sense, highlighting his years of activism and promotion of human rights within the LGBTQ+ community.

The Russian government’s stance against the LGBTQ+ community has been hardening over the years. Putin has been vocal about his efforts to suppress what he perceives as the “degrading” influence of the West, particularly after his attack on Ukraine last year. In 2013, the Kremlin passed a law restricting “gay propaganda” and prohibiting public endorsement of “non-traditional sexual relations.” More recently, in 2020, government reforms extending Putin’s presidential term also included a provision that banned same-sex marriage in the country.

The Russian supreme court has not provided any further comments on its ruling.