A gay couple who fled Russia after questions arose about the adoption of their children say they fear the government would take their kids away -- and possibly even charge the men with sex crimes or murder.
The nation's Investigative Committee, the primary investigating authority of the federal government, announced last month that it was scrutinizing the social welfare officials who allowed the adoption. Because of that, Andrei Vaganov and Yevgeny Yerofeyev left Moscow with their two sons, Denis and Yuri.
"I left the country for two reasons," Vaganov recently told German news broadcaster Deutsche Welle, which agreed not to disclose the family's current location. "Firstly, because of the idea that my children could end up in an orphanage. Secondly, because I was told directly that I would, in any case, be arrested for seducing minors." He had even been told to bring the boys to government authorities to prove they were alive, meaning he was also under investigation for murder.
Vaganov adopted the boys in 2010. As the homophobic nation does not allow adoption by same-sex couples, Yerofeyev has no legal relationship to them. But the two men, who married in Denmark in 2016, have been raising the children together for years.
The situation for LGBTQ people in Russia worsened in the first few years after the adoption, with a ban on the adoption of Russian children by anyone from a country with marriage equality and the infamous 2013 "gay propaganda" law, prohibiting any positive mention of LGBTQ identity in a venue accessible to minors.
The propaganda law "immediately turned us into criminals because of our sexual orientation," Vaganov said. "Our children then told us that they had been teased, and others called us pederasts."
The family came to the attention of the national government when Yuri disclosed to authorities that he has two fathers, something Vagonov and Yerofeyev had never asked the boys to hide. Yuri is registered with the police for what Vaganov called "administrative infringements," and recently the youth told the police about his family situation. A few months later, when he was hospitalized for what appeared to be appendicitis, a doctor asked if his mother could pick him up, and he again said that he has two dads. Because of that disclosure, he was examined to see if he had been a victim of sexual abuse. "This is very unpleasant and shocking for a child," Vaganov told Deutsche Welle.
An official from the adoption agency soon called Vaganov and advised him to place the children in a rehabilitation center until the test results were in. His lawyer then told him to leave the country. He left with the two boys, and Yerofeyev followed a week later, after he and his parents had been confronted by police demanding to see the men's marriage certificate.
"Several lawyers have confirmed that the authorities could take the children away from me," Vagonov said. "They would then be handed over to psychologists. And on the basis of these conversations with the children, the authorities could then, for example, initiate proceedings for the use of violence." So the family remains outside Russia.