‘History of love in the country of hatred': influencers detained in Russia for LGBTQ+ ‘propaganda’

Screenshot of a YouTube video from the bloggers YouTube channel

In December 2022, Vladimir Putin signed a law enforcing an all-encompassing ban on so-called “LGBT propaganda” that included the internet, mass media, literature, cinema, and advertising. Violating the law entails administrative liability in the form of large fines; for foreigners and stateless persons it may result in expulsion from Russia. Apart from widespread censorship, the “anti-propaganda” law leads to unprecedented pressure on LGBTQ+ people and the organizations helping them.

A few days ago, bloggers Gela Gogishvili and Haoyang Xu were detained in Kazan on the charge of “LGBT propaganda” . The bloggers have popular Telegram, TikTok and YouTube channels. The information about the detainment first appeared in the “DELO LGBT+” Telegram channel that documents cases on the basis of the anti-LGBT propaganda law and provides legal help to the accused. 

The detainees, who were kept in the police department N 16 of Kazan, have not been granted a visit from their lawyer Adel Haidarshin.

In a conversation with OVD-Info, Gela Gogishvili said that Haoyang Xu was stopped by the police at a Burger King fast-food restaurant under the pretence of checking his passport data and address registration, which they did not happen to have on them. Haoyang Xu then asked Gela Gogishvili to bring the passport, and, when the blogger arrived, the police detained them both. Gogishvili also noted that Xu was a Chinese citizen, so they might face expulsion from Russia.

Gogishvili was later released with an obligation to appear the next morning.

Xu  was detained overnight, because, being a Chinese citizen, they were charged under a different part of the law, which entailed arrest.

On the next day, according to SOTA agency, Xu was detained  for seven more days with a court ruling for further deportation of a foreigner from Russia.

The court found that with their videos, Xu “had spread the desire for sex change among minors” despite the fact that the blogger's YouTube channel is clearly labeled “18+.” The ruling was carried out by the Vakhitovsky Court of Kazan.

In their YouTube channel, the bloggers wrote before they were detained that they had moved to Moscow and were hiding (not posting and not showing up) because of the racial and homophobic hatred that they had been  subjected to during the preceding month. In a post  written 10 days ago and named “History of love in the country of hatred,” they said:

Despite our fear, we have chosen not to reveal our vulnerability to homophobes. We will persevere and find joy, despite the fact that some people hope for our eradication and want to silence us. It is important to continue fighting for our rights and for a better future. We must lead by example and give hope to other LGBT+ individuals that they are not alone, especially during these difficult times when many are afraid to be themselves due to discriminatory laws and societal pressures. Support is crucial now more than ever.

The attack on bloggers, and LGBTQ+ persons in particular, is continuing in Russia. Earlier, the first victims of the anti-LGBTQ propaganda law were also popular TikTok and Twitch bloggers transperson Dasha Kareyka and Hilmi Forks, who have since moved to Armenia.

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