A gay man visiting Russia to attend the World Cup was seriously injured this week when he and his partner were attacked in St. Petersburg.
A Frenchman identified only as O. Davrius suffered a brain concussion, an open head injury, and a fractured jaw in the assault, and he required hospitalization, reports U.K. site Pink News. He and his partner, who was not identified by name in the report, were also robbed of their money and cell phones. The couple had traveled to Russia to cheer on France’s team in the World Cup, which started today,
Police have arrested two suspects, Ismet Gaidarov and Rasul Magomedov, in connection with the attack, according to Pink News. Davrius and his partner were reportedly targeted after they caught a taxi.
Organizations for LGBT soccer fans around the world have received anonymous threats leading up to the World Cup, leading fans to fear for their safety in the homophobic nation. The Pride in Football group, for instance, has received messages saying that LGBT fans would be hunted down and killed. LGBT activists have been warning visitors to be cautious and are setting up safe spaces for fans to watch televised games.
But the threats have kept coming. Paramilitary units formed by members of the Cossack ethnic group are patrolling some of the venues hosting the games, and they have vowed “to help police keep gay men from kissing,” Pink News reports.
Anti-LGBT crimes have risen sharply in Russia since it enacted the 2013 “gay propaganda” law, which essentially bans any positive mention of LGBT identity or support for LGBT rights in venues accessible to minors. FIFA, the global governing body for soccer, has been criticized for holding this year’s World Cup in Russia, because of the anti-LGBT law, the rise in crimes, and the incarceration and killing of gay and bisexual men in the semiautonomous Russian republic of Chechnya.
Despite the homophobic atmosphere in the nation, Russia’s World Cup organizing committee has assured LGBT fans that they and others will be safe at the games and that displays of pride, such as rainbow flags, will be allowed. But British LGBT rights activist Peter Tatchell was arrested Thursday in Moscow for protesting the persecution going on in Chechnya.