Couple arrested for violating Russia’s ‘gay propaganda’ law News
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Couple arrested for violating Russia’s ‘gay propaganda’ law

Police in the Russian city of Kazan Wednesday arrested a publicly out gay couple, Haoyang Xu and Gela Gogishvili, for their alleged breach of the country’s “gay propaganda” law. According to a statement from their lawyer, the two men are accused of violating the propaganda law because of videos uploaded to the couple’s YouTube and TikTok accounts. The two men are particularly active on social media, where they amassed a large following by chronicling their experiences in Russia as a gay, non-Slavic couple.

Independent human rights monitor OVD-Info reported that a Russian criminal court charged the two men with violating Russia’s law prohibiting all public expressions of same sex attraction and relationships. The court claimed the couple violated the propaganda law by releasing videos where the two men can be seen touching each other. As a result of his violation, a Russian court ruled Thursday to deport Xu, a Chinese citizen, back to China. Meanwhile, Gogishvili, an ethnically Georgian citizen of Russia, was released from police custody but ordered to return to court later this month to defend himself against the charges.

Xu and Gogishvili started dating in 2021. According to an interview they gave in March to the U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, they immediately experienced harassment after they began uploading videos documenting their experiences as a gay couple in Russia. Xu stated that many people in his life threatened to report him and Gogishvili to the Russian authorities, including one of his college professors. These threats came to fruition on Wednesday, when the couple was arrested in the Russian city of Kazan.

The “gay propaganda” law, first introduced in 2013, makes it a criminal act in Russia to publicly release material depicting same-sex relationships. The law was recently reformed to include harsher penalties, and expanded to prohibit any depiction of LGBTQ relationships or identities on all platforms, including social media accounts.