By Thom Senzee
Originally published on Advocate.com August 19 2014 1:59 PM ET
A Russian nationalist whose viral videos showed him torturing, assaulting, and verbally abusing gay men has been convicted for "inciting and fomenting cases of extremism," and sentenced to five years in a penal colony, according to LGBTQ Nation and the Russian government news agency, Interfax.
However, none of the charges Maxim Sergeyevich Martsinkevich was convicted on are related to his alleged torture of young gay men, which Martsinkevich and friends recorded on video and proudly shared on Russian social networking sites, reports LGBTQ Nation. Instead, his conviction was for "inciting and fomenting cases of extremism" based on racial and anti-immigrant activities.
In fact, Russian authorities have been reticent about prosecuting any neo-Nazis for assaults against LGBT people, despite a plethora of evidence, including violent, grotesque images and video of gay teenagers being physically and sexually abused, many of which subsequently went viral on Russia's equivalent of Facebook, VKontakte.
As the leader of an antigay vigilante group calling itself "Occupy Pedophilia," Martsinkevich and his cronies made a habit of luring gay men into apartments with promises of sexual encounters. When the victims arrived, they were detained, harassed, assaulted, sexually tortured, and made to "confess" their homosexuality on camera. While several videos proliferated on Russian social networks, at least one resulted in the victim filing a criminal complaint. After fleeing Russia for Ukraine, Martsinkevich lured former X-Factor competitor Alexander Bohun into one of his "sessions," harassing the man, shaving the center of his head, and painting anti-Semitic images on Bohun's body.
Martsinkevich has previously served three years in jail for his involvement with the nationalist group Format 18, found guilty of incitement to hatred. He was released on those charges in 2010, but now the neo-Nazi faces another five years in prison after a failed attempt to evade prosecution under Russia's "anti-extremism" laws by fleeing to Cuba in January.
Just days after his arrival on the communist-ruled island, Cuban authorities arrested Martsinkevich and began extradition procedures to remand him to the custody of Russian authorities.
Even with Martsinkevich serving out his sentence in a penal colony, LGBT Russians are unlikely to experience a much safer society, as President Vladimir Putin's Russia remains a rabidly homophobic place where a draconian, antigay law criminalizes any kind of positive speech about LGBT people or identities as forbidden so-called homosexual propaganda.
Although Russian authorities continually claim the nationwide law is intended to protect children, a ninth-grade student was investigated earlier this year by government officials because she had told classmates she was a lesbian. And while a social media group for LGBT young people was spared a similar conviction in February, a Russian court last month declared that a national LGBT group must register as a "foreign agent," significantly limiting the organization's access to resources and the mobility of its members.
Russia's embattled LGBT community can take some solace in the fact that, as LGBTQ Nation reports, nine of Martsinkevich's alleged criminal cohorts are facing trials for their antigay crimes, including "organization of an extremist community and membership in an extremist community, beatings and other acts of violence, the threat of murder and causing grievous bodily harm, intentional infliction of moderate bodily harm, torture and robbery."
In another modest indication of gradual improvement for LGBT Russians, last month St. Petersburg held the country's first nonviolent LGBT Pride event, which — although modest in size — went off without complications after being granted a permit from local authorities.