Russia's Supreme Court has designated the "international LGBT public movement" as an extremist organization, marking a significant escalation in the country's crackdown on LGBT rights, Moscow Times reports.
This decision was made despite the fact that such a movement does not formally exist. Activists fear this will effectively criminalize any form of LGBT rights advocacy in Russia.
Alexei Sergeyev, a civil rights and LGBT activist from St. Petersburg, expressed concern that this could be the beginning of the end for LGBT rights activism in Russia.
With potential prison sentences of up to six years for involvement in an extremist organization, the risks for activists and anyone associated with LGBT lifestyles or symbols are now extremely high.
The fines for "LGBT propaganda," which were already substantial, pale in comparison to the threat of imprisonment for extremism.
This decision means that activities like participating in a gay pride event or displaying a rainbow flag could make someone a target for arrest.
LGBT rights in Russia have been declining since 2013 when President Vladimir Putin signed a law banning LGBT "propaganda" toward minors.
Last year, Russia expanded this law to include all ages and banned gender reassignment. Organizations like Sfera, Vykhod, and NC SOS Crisis Group, which provide support to the Russian LGBT community, are likely to face immediate consequences due to the Supreme Court's decision.
Alexandra Miroshnikova, a spokesperson for the NC SOS crisis group, noted that any interaction with LGBT organizations will now be dangerous for staff, lawyers, and those receiving aid. This decision will particularly impact LGBT individuals in conservative regions like Russia’s North Caucasus, where rights are already heavily restricted.
The Supreme Court's ruling not only increases the risk of criminal prosecution but also heightens the threat of homophobic violence toward LGBT Russians.