Metro Weekly

Uniformed Russian “Cossacks” are patrolling streets of Yekaterinburg during Pride Week seeking out LGBTQ people

Local prosecutors previously warned Pride Week organizers them not to violate Russia's law prohibiting pro-LGBTQ "propaganda"

Yekaterinburg skyline – Photo: A. Savin, via Wikimedia.

Groups of uniformed men have been patrolling the streets of Yekaterinburg during Ural Pride Week, a weeklong festival organized by the city’s LGBT Resource Center.

Witnesses claimed that the men, some of whom are dressed in protective suit and hats, were patrolling the park near the Drama Theater, near the Yeltsin Center, and along the Iset River, according to E1.RU, a news outlet for the Yekaterinburg area. The uniformed men are being accompanied by others in civilian clothes.

The timing of the patrols appears to be due to Pride Week, which is expected to gather LGBTQ people and allies from throughout the region. Organizers had planned to conduct a tour of “queer places” in the city earlier in the week, but later canceled the event.

The local prosecutor’s office previously issued a warning that Russian law prohibits the distribution and dissemination of gay “propaganda,” and said that it would be checking to ensure Pride Week organizers were not violating the law. If participants are thought to be violating the law, the men on patrol intend to detain them and turn them over to law enforcement for prosecution.

Alexander Zinoviev, the heterosexual son of Revdinsky Rabochy editor Yevgeny Zinoviev appears to have been one of those detained on suspicion of being gay, according to a post on Zinoviev’s Facebook page.

“Today, my absolutely heterosexual student son was braked by Cossacks in the center of Yekaterinburg,” Zinoeviev wrote. ‘They [stopped him] for dyed bangs and a [diamond] earring in the [right] ear … [T]he city that gave birth to Nautilus Pompilius, Agatha Christie, Kolyada Theater, Chaif, Alexander Pantykin, Nastya Poleva, old Bukashkin, Olga Arefieva, Words and Music of Freedom , Sansaru, Romario, Old New Rock, Stenography … Aren’t you ashamed?” he wrote.

See also: Proposed Russian law would prohibit transgender people from officially changing their gender

The younger Zinoviev later wrote an account of his experience with the Cossacks, who told him they were there to “control the propaganda of gayness.” He was able to distract them and escape by taking a bus. He chastised the so-called “Cossacks” for equating themselves to police, saying they actually do not have legal authority to detain anyone.

“I have to the right to dress the way I want,” he wrote. “And if I break [a law], the law enforcement officers will tell me about it, not you. Stop digging into us, better watch yourself!”

When approached by an E1.RU correspondent, a group of “Cossacks” objected to being filmed and were evasive about why they were patrolling, claiming to have no knowledge of Pride Week and declining to say what their motive was. 

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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