By Sunnivie Brydum
Originally published on Advocate.com February 12 2014 2:12 PM ET
Officials with the Russian embassy in London are none too pleased about a recent documentary on Britain's Channel 4 that exposed violent antigay vigilante groups operating with near impunity in several major Russian cities.
In response, the embassy issued a statement blasting the documentary as "hate propaganda" and arguing that "one could have easily whipped up such 'documentary' about a hunting season on redheads in the UK saying that 'ginger' people face unmotivated verbal and physical abuse on a daily basis," according to The Telegraph. The embassy's statement made no mention of the U.K.'s arguably most famous redhead, Prince Harry.
The documentary, called Hunted, is part of a "well-engineered campaign of slander," intentionally timed to cast a shadow over the Winter Olympics currently taking place in Sochi, Russia, claims the embassy's statement. Embassy officials contend that the 50-minute film, which records brutal antigay assaults by members of the well-known Russian vigilante group Occupy Pedophilia, is "full of distorted facts and unverifiable allegations."
The embassy's statement claims that although anti-LGBT attacks do sometimes occur in Russia, they are not sanctioned by the government, despite a nationwide ban on so-called gay propaganda, that imposes fines and possible jail time for anyone speaking positively about LGBT people or contending that LGBT people are equal to heterosexuals.
"If the authors of the documentary really had evidence of rampant gay hate crimes in Russia, they wouldn’t need to wait until an international sporting event takes place in Russia to raise the alarm," says the embassy's statement. "While violent attacks on homosexuals sometimes take place in Russia, just like in many other European countries, this does not mean that they are condoned, supported or, let alone, encouraged by the Government. Such attacks are few and far between and by no means reflect general sentiments of the Russian people."
Hunted does indeed document several violent anti-LGBT crimes either as they took place or shortly after they were widely reported by international media. Nevertheless, the Russian embassy sticks to the narrative advanced by Russian leaders, including president Vladimir Putin and his deputy prime minister, who claim the anti-LGBT laws and vigilante groups are actually targeting pedophiles, gay or straight.
The Telegraph notes that the British Foreign Office recently increased funding for LGBT equality groups working in Russia, including Stonewall UK, a move the paper contends is "likely to infuriate Russia … because it regards civil rights as a strictly internal affair."