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LGBT activists attacked in Russia, authorities turn blind eye

(Freedom House/IFEX) - 22 January 2013 - Freedom House condemns the violent attacks against LGBT rights activists in two Russian cities who were peacefully protesting against an anti-homosexuality bill to be considered by Russia's Duma. The attacks, which occurred in Voronezh and Moscow, resulted in numerous injuries and at least one person was hospitalized.

"Russian authorities have a constitutional responsibility to protect peaceful demonstrators," said David J. Kramer, president of Freedom House. "The decision to neither provide adequate security nor intervene as violence broke out in Voronezh is deeply concerning and amounts to a tacit approval of the violence."

Several hundred nationalists held a counter protest against the LGBT rights supporters in Voronezh on January 20, carrying hateful signs, throwing bottles, and physically attacking LGBT rights advocates, injuring several. Reports indicate that the police did not intervene as the attacks continued in the center of Voronezh. A police statement claiming the "situation was under control" and that "there were no violations of public order" clearly contradicts first-hand testimony and video evidence showing the police standing by as activists were attacked. Police were reportedly notified days before the event that activists had received threats. Police later issued a statement celebrating statements of support of their inaction by nationalist groups.

On January 22, a demonstration in front of the Duma in Moscow against an anti-homosexual law slated to be considered by the body was also attacked by nationalists, also without intervention by the authorities including the Duma's own security service. Consideration of the draft law was put off for several days for unknown reasons; however, similar laws prohibiting "propaganda of homosexuality" are already in force in at least eight Russian regions.

"The hateful attacks on peaceful demonstrators show how pernicious laws against so-called 'propaganda of homosexuality' fuel hatred and violence," added Kramer. "Russia should fully investigate these attacks and live up to its commitments to protect its citizens and their rights to the freedom of assembly and expression."

Russia is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2013, Not Free in the Freedom of the Press 2012 and Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2012.

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