The claim comes in the wake of news that the deputy mayor of the town roughly 150 miles east of Moscow had approved a request for an LGBT Pride march made by prominent gay activist Nikolai Alexeyev, according to the BBC's translation of the original Russian sources. Alexeyev, a well-known but controversial figure in Russia's beleaguered LGBT community, had petitioned to hold LGBT marches in several cities but won approval to do so only in Ivanovo.
Alexeyev told Moscow-based news agency Interfax that he had received permission Tuesday to hold a march, a picket, and a rally in the city October 5 "in order to attract public attention to the problems of sexual minorities," according to a translation.
But just hours after Ivanovo's deputy mayor allegedly granted permission for the march to occur -- albeit on a different route than Alexeyev initially requested -- a city spokeswoman told a national radio station that the approval had been revoked. The BBC reports that spokeswoman said the initial approval was a "mix-up" and added that the deputy mayor has "no authority to grant permission" for such a gathering. The deputy mayor is reportedly under official investigation for the "mix-up."
Vitaly Milonov, a St. Petersburg lawmaker who is no stranger to outlandish conspiracies about LGBT people in Russia, told state-run television network RT that the march's approval was either an "unconscious action" by the Ivanovo government or that the application had been delivered to "some kind of undercover agent [of] LGBT people in the administration."
What's more, Milonov said, there are no gay people in Ivanovo to participate in the parade anyway. The "glamorous restaurants, clubs, [and] effeminate men" are found only in Moscow, he told RT. He went on to say that any LGBT march would violate the country's 2013 ban on "homosexual propaganda," which prohibits any positive discussion or depiction of LGBT people or identities in public spaces where minors might be present.
Milonov, who was recently elected to the State Duma, Russia's equivalent of a parliament, has made no secret of his willingness to use his position to harass LGBT people who dare to be out in Russia. In February 2015, he happened to share a flight with a lesbian couple, who noticed the notoriously antigay politician seated behind them and snapped a selfie of themselves kissing, with Milonov in the background. The photo went viral, prompting Milonov to track down the women who took the photo and order a police raid on the lesbian club they owned.
Although Milonov did not admit a direct connection between the viral photo and the club being raided, he did say that his "sense of humor" inspired him to "continue this joke by closing their gay club in St. Petersburg." Shortly thereafter, a form letter complaining that the dance hall was "a lesbian club where [sodomites] corrupt young girls" appeared on the social media page for an antigay group called Moscow -- Not Sodom! Petersburg -- Not Gommorrah! Group members were encouraged to send copies of the letter to the St. Petersburg prosecutor who, it appears, ultimately ordered the raid.