"Kissing Selfies" Lead to Anti-Gay Crackdown in Russia

On February 1 of this year,  the owner of a St. Petersburg lesbian nightclub, Infinity, and several of her friends spotted Russian lawmaker Vitaly Milonov on a flight from Moscow to St. Petersburg.   Milonov is a member of the Legislative Assembly of St. Petersburg and an outspoken conservative who initiated Russia's crackdown on LGBT rights.    Taking advantage of the opportunity for an impromptu protest, the women photographed themselves kissing in front of Milonov and posted the pictures online where they became a viral sensation.

Milonov was furious over the stunt and denounced the women as "crazy little morons" and that he was "ashamed for their parents who raised such idiots."   Two days later, an anti-gay group based in Moscow and St. Petersburg launched a campaign to get the Infinity club closed down.  Not only did the post provide detailed instructions, including a scripted complaint to be sent to the district attorney, but members were also urged to appeal to Russia's media watchdog, Roskomnadzor, as well as federal anti-drug agents due to claims that Infinity is providing drugs to underage minors. 

The scripted complaint read, in part, "“I have every reason to believe,” the scripted complaint reads, “that the promotional activities carried out at the lesbian club Infinity pose a serious threat to the physical and mental health of minors who manage to enter the establishment.”

Claiming that hundreds of the club's community members are underage, making the "propagation of homosexuality" a federal crime, the group Moscow Isn't Sodom and Petersburg Isn't Gomorrah has been effective in attacking other LGBT groups in Moscow and St. Petersburg.  The group has made no secret about why they are targeting Infinity stating that "it was precisely this nightclub’s staff who staged a provocation a few days ago. Before the eyes of everyone on board a flight from Moscow to St. Petersburg, they demonstrated their perverse inclinations, causing a scandal on the Internet."

After more than one hundred complaints by group members, police have raided Infinity and called in the club's manager and social media administrator for questioning.   Though no laws were broken by the kissing incident, Vitaly Cherkasov, a lawyer at the Russian human rights organization Agora blames the anti-gay group's activities for the new political pressure to close the club.

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