Siberian gay bar closes after Safe Internet League complaint prompted police raid

A queer bar in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk announced its closure on Monday just days after it was raided by police following a complaint made about the establishment by the head of Russian online censorship organisation the Safe Internet League.

The police decision to raid Elton was apparently prompted by Yekaterina Mizulina’s complaint on Telegram. “In Krasnoyarsk, an LGBT bar has not only failed to close,” she wrote, referring to a November ruling by Russia’s Supreme Court deeming the international LGBT movement “extremist” and effectively banning it, but also “held a provocative party on Defender of the Fatherland Day.”

Screenshot from a video posted by Mizulina.

Screenshot from a video posted by Mizulina.

The Safe Internet League, a non-governmental body funded by conservative ultranationalist billionaire Konstantin Malofeev, ostensibly campaigns for the protection of children online, but has increasingly acted as Russia’s unofficial censor, principally targeting Russian performing artists deemed to be insufficiently supportive of the war in Ukraine.

A video of Saturday night’s raid shows customers at the bar being forced to lie face down on the floor with their hands on their heads as camouflaged officers checked their documents. Krasnoyarsk’s Interior Ministry said that 12 individuals had been detained and that the owner of the club was being investigated for hosting “a provocative party”.

In a statement issued on Monday, the bar’s management announced it had closed for good, saying that they had “fought until the end” but could “no longer protect their guests or employees”, adding that “the spread of hateful propaganda” was turning people against each other.

The crackdown on LGBT groups and safe queer spaces in the wake of anti-LGBT legislation has left queer people in Russia in an increasingly dangerous position, not least due to vigilante groups emboldened to take the law into their own hands.

Following the raid on Elton, the ultranationalist conservative group Northern Men stood guard outside the venue to prevent it from reopening, calling the bar a “place of sodomy” in a video.

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