Being gay is dangerous business in Russia, but it’s especially risky when you troll the country’s leading opponent of gay rights. The owners of a St. Petersburg lesbian nightclub, raided today by police, are learning that lesson.
Infinity is a “girls-only” nightclub for “St. Petersburg’s most stylish young women.” On February 1, one of the club’s owners and several of her friends were flying from Moscow to St. Petersburg, when they spotted Vitaly Milonov, a lawmaker famous for initiating Russia’s crackdown on LGBT rights. Not fans of his conservative politics, the girls photographed themselves kissing one another in front of Milonov, and later posted the images online, where they became a viral sensation.
Милонов, целующиеся лесбиянки и зига. Вся Россия в одной фотографии. pic.twitter.com/4wZFVYqgc7
— Лентач (@oldLentach) February 1, 2015
Milonov, kissing lesbians, and some guy doing a Nazi salute. All of Russia captured in a single photo.
Milonov didn’t find the stunt very amusing, however. He called the girls “crazy little morons” and said he was “ashamed for their parents, who raised such idiots.”
Two days later, on February 3, an anti-gay online community based in Moscow and St. Petersburg published a call to get Infinity closed down. The group posted instructions and a scripted complaint to be sent to the district attorney, demanding that police shut down the lesbian nightclub. Community members were also encouraged to appeal to Roskomnadzor, Russia’s state-run media watchdog, and federal anti-drug agents, based on claims that Infinity opens its doors to minors and operates as a center for illegal drug use.
The anti-gay group, called Moscow Isn’t Sodom and Petersburg Isn’t Gomorrah, claims that at least 524 of the club’s 30,000 VKontakte community members are underage, making the “propagation of homosexuality” a federal crime. Access to Infinity’s VKontakte group is restricted to members, making it difficult to verify accusations that it caters to minors.
Those who want the nightclub shut down are instructed to convey their concerns to police. “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.”
The anti-gay group makes no secret of why it targeted club Infinity, citing the “kissing selfies” incident with Milonov on the airplane:
[…] именно сотрудицы данного клуба несколько дней назад устроили провокацию: на глазах у пасажиров самолета Москва-Петербург они стали демонстрировать свои извращенные наклонности, чем вызвали скандал в интернете.
[…] 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.
According to Vitaly Cherkasov, a lawyer at the Russian human rights organization Agora, police raided the club after receiving roughly 100 complaints from local residents about the supposed presence of minors and illegal drugs. Police have also called in for questioning the nightclub’s general director and social media administrator.
Cherkasov says Infinity’s owners believe the police investigation is tied directly to the “kissing selfies” incident earlier this month.