In about two weeks the World Cup soccer tournament will kick off in Moscow, Russia. Just this week the U.K. organization for LGBTQ sports fans Pride In Football has reportedly received emails from Russian thugs threatening to hunt down and stab LGBTQ fans who attend the event. Pride In Football has since reported those World Cup gay threats to police.
Russia has a law banning any public displays of “gay propaganda” and has shrugged off an 18-month-long anti-gay purge happening within its borders. But despite Russia’s World Cup 2018 anti-discrimination chief Alexei Smertin recently promising that gay soccer fans will feel “safe and comfortable” during the summertime event, the English and Welsh Football Supporters’ Federation has warned gay fans to expect possible discrimination in Moscow.
Russia has serious motivation to prevent any anti-LGBTQ violence during the international soccer tournament as it presents an opportunity for the Russian capital to present itself as a world destination. Worldwide media will of course be watching closely. As such, Russia is expected to increase police and security presence around stadiums to help reduce violence.
And yet a spokesperson for the Russian LGBT Network (who must remain anonymous for safety reasons) tells Hornet, “I am sure the Russian authorities will do their best to protect the guests of the World Cup. Indeed, it’s a very important event for the country, and the Russia authorities even stated that no people with rainbow flags would be detained, even though the situation was quite the opposite during the May 1 demonstration.”
That May 1 demonstration refers to a protest by Russian LGBTQ activists against Chechnya’s anti-gay purge. During the demonstration, Russian police arrested 20 protestors, many of whom were carrying rainbow flags.
“However,” the spokesperson continues, “I am not that sure the authorities are capable of protecting LGBT people from homophobic violence. [The Russian government has been] promoting hate for many years already, and our research shows that the amount of hate crimes against LGBT people are growing constantly. It is not to say that people should not come to Russia or should not raise the rainbow flag. It is rather about being aware of the context and possible risks.”
Anti-LGBT hate crimes in Russia have indeed doubled over the last five years.