Russian Activists Confirm Attack on LGBT Meeting in St. Petersburg

By Sunnivie Brydum

Originally published on Advocate.com November 04 2013 3:27 PM ET

LGBT activists in St. Petersburg, Russia, confirmed that antigay attackers invaded a private meeting of a Rainbow Coffee Party Sunday at the offices of LaSky, an HIV and STD information and treatment clinic that serves LGBT people. 

Two masked men entered the community center Sunday night claiming to be looking for a friend, and then one opened fire with a gun while the other brandished a baseball bat, injuring two of the LGBT and allied youth who were at the Rainbow Coffee Party, according to a statement from LaSky. 

One victim was transported to the hospital with "a bullet stuck in his eye," according to the statement, and doctors did not expect to be able to save the man's eye. The second victim was a young woman, who was injured by the baseball bat. 

"Today’s attack is a result of escalation of homophobic climate in the city," said Valery Sozaev, LaSky's project manager, in a press release translated from Russian by Vlad Bukhtoyarov. "Those who foster the feelings of hatred on the ground of sexual orientation or gender identity including politicians and religious leaders must be accounted for it. This attack aimed at the office of organization for prevention of HIV and STD is an indication that pogrom-makers progressed from attacking activists during street rallies to attacks on closed private social events. Advocacy groups of the city are following this accident with an intense attention and will press for just and fair investigation of this homophobic hate crime."

LaSky's statement confirmed that its Rainbow Coffee Party is a weekly social meeting for LGBT and allied youth that supports free, nonjudgmental communication between participants. Between 25 and 30 people were in attendance at Sunday's meeting, LaSky reports. 

As The Advocate first reported, police came to the LaSky office to investigate the assault but left immediately, saying they saw no evidence of a crime.

Just one day before the attack at LaSky, activists took to the streets of St. Petersburg for the ninth annual March Against Hatred, an officially sanctioned rally that called for an end to discrimination, intolerance, and xenophobia in Russia. Along with banners bearing the march's slogan — "For Russia Without Pogroms" — activists also carried rainbow flags and banners that read "God Loves Gays." Watch video of the march below. 

Anti-LGBT violence in Russia has been on the rise since President Vladimir Putin signed a series of anti-LGBT laws this summer, including one that imposes fines and possible jail time for anyone disseminating "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relationships" where it might be visible to minors. A second law forbids gay and lesbian people from adopting Russian orphans, while also forbidding single people from nations that embrace marriage equality from adopting any of Russia's estimated 600,000 children without legal guardians. 

Last month, a member of the conservative ruling party introduced a bill that would remove children from the homes of their gay and lesbian parents, claiming that homosexuality was tantamount to child abuse, drug use, and alcoholism. The lawmaker withdrew the bill shortly after its introduction, but only to amend some language and then reintroduce it.

Watch video from the march that preceded Sunday's attacks in St. Petersburg below.