Metro Weekly

Moscow police arrest British gay rights activist as World Cup begins

Activist Peter Tatchell was arrested for protesting Putin's silence on gay men being kidnapped and tortured in Chechnya

Peter Tatchell

A gay rights activist was briefly arrested by Moscow police on the opening day of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

British activist Peter Tatchell was shown in a video with a sign reading, “Putin fails to act against Chechnya torture of gay people.” Several police officers took Tatchell to a police station, where he was later released.

Tatchell tweeted that he had violated laws that prevent protesting “near the Kremlin & during World Cup,” and apparently has a court date scheduled for June 26.

LGBTQ soccer fans were “strongly” warned not to “publicly display sexuality” when traveling to Russia for the international soccer tournament.

“There is no reason not to come to the World Cup if you are LGBT+,” the Football Supporters’ Federation wrote in a blog post. “However, although same-sex sexual activity has been decriminalised in Russia since 1993, it is strongly understood and advised that you do not publicly display your sexuality, but this is up to the individual.” 

Witnesses and victims have reported a “purge” of gay men in Chechnya last year with numerous reports of gay men being kidnapped and held in prisons and makeshift concentration camps, as well as men being attacked, tortured, blackmailed and even killed for their sexuality.

Human Rights Watch has corroborated the reports, saying they were “consistent” with information they’d received from sources in Russia. Chechnya’s Interior Ministry dismissed initial reports of the treatment of gay men as an “April fools’ joke.” A press secretary for Ramzan Kadyrov, head of the Chechen Republic, refuted that there were even any gay people in Chechnya.

Tatchell said in a statement on Wednesday that he was in Moscow to call out FIFA for giving the World Cup to Russia, as well as FIFA’s “failure to tackle homophobia and racism by football leagues, clubs, players and fans.”

“It is appalling that this tournament is being held in a country where gay football fans are openly threatened that they will be hunted down, beaten and stabbed,” he said.

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