Police detain a gay rights activist during a Gay Pride event in St. Petersburg, June 29, 2013. Dozens of gay and lesbian rights activists and their supporters gathered for the event but were attacked by anti-gay protesters and later dispersed by the police. REUTERS/Alexander Demianchuk (RUSSIA - Tags: SOCIETY CIVIL UNREST)

Russia arrests four tourists for spreading “gay propaganda” to nation’s youth

Russia’s draconian ban on “gay propaganda” recently ensnared its first foreigners with the arrest of four Dutch nationals accused of asking Russian youth about their views on gay rights.

The Dutch tourists—which included Kris van der Veen, who is reportedly making a documentary about human rights in Russia—allegedly spread “propaganda of nontraditional relationships among the under-aged.” The four were apparently talking to teens at a camp in the northern city of Murmansk when they were arrested Sunday for violating the terms of their work in the country, local officials said, according to Russian media.

The tourists spent a night in jail but were sent home Monday after their court hearing was postponed, according to local media reports. They could have faced up to two weeks in prison.

The arrests came just weeks after Russia passed the controversial anti-gay law in June, a forceful attempt to prevent discourse about homosexuality and gay rights. Russia already faces a barrage of criticism over its backsliding on free speech and human rights in the run-up to the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.

The detainments could serve to make potential visitors to the country very nervous, said Boris Dittrich, an advocacy director with Human Rights Watch.

“Potential tourists who publicly support homosexuality when minors are involved—this doesn’t necessarily have to be in words, it could be by wearing a rainbow flag T-shirt—run the risk of being arrested, fined and deported from Russia,” Dittrich said.

Russia will be squarely in the world’s spotlight during the 2014 Olympics, spending a record-breaking $50 billion on hotels, athletics centers and other infrastructure. The government has said it wants to make Sochi a major winter resort destination following the event.

At least one gay rights group, the U.S.-based, Russian-language Rusa LGBT, has called for a boycott of the games.

For now, tourists hoping to discuss political movements in Russia should think twice, according to Dittrich. ”The ‘propaganda’ law violates basic human rights, like the freedom of expression, assembly and association,” he said.

An International Olympic Committee spokesman said the group is keeping an eye on fallout from the anti-gay propaganda legislation.

“It remains to seen whether and how it will be implemented, particularly in regards to the games in Sochi,” said Andrew Mitchell, the IOC’s media relations manager, who declined to comment specifically on the case of the four Dutch tourists.

“As a sporting organization, what we can do is continue to work to ensure that the games can take place without discrimination against athletes, officials, spectators and the media,” Mitchell said. “To that end, the IOC has received assurances from the highest level of government in Russia that the legislation will not affect those attending or taking part in the games.”


Down and out in Sochi: Feeling the effects of Russia’s gay “propaganda” ban

“Cut their balls off!” Russian official allegedly encourages gay bashing as Parliament passes bill banning homosexual “propaganda”

Meet Russia’s Rand Paul, the lawmaker who skipped the country’s anti-gay vote

Murdered because he was gay — is this Russia’s Matthew Shepard?

Respond Now
Activists of the Right Sector movement and their supporters gather outside the parliament building to demand the immediate resignation of Internal Affairs Minister Arsen Avakov, in Kiev March 27, 2014. A prominent Ukrainian far-right activist, part of a hard-line nationalist movement that played a leading role in the overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovich, was shot dead by police overnight, authorities said on March 25. The Interior Ministry said Oleksander Muzychko, also known as Sashko Bily, was killed by officers of the 'Sokol' special unit as he tried to escape from a cafe in the western Ukrainian region of Rivne. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko (UKRAINE - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) - RTR3IWHV

Organizing a Right-Wing Ukrainian Militia? There’s an App for That

Rachael Levy
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his wife Lyudmila sit in front of the Taj Mahal while touring city of Agra October 4, 2000. Building on the first day of a visit aimed at rekindling Soviet-era amity, Putin told India's parliament that ties with New Delhi would remain a key element of Moscow's foreign policy. - RTXK1TW

Meet the Putins

Vocativ Staff
Shoppers walk past an advertising billboard for shoes in the central business district (CBD) of Beijing November 3, 2008. A measure of Chinese manufacturing activity showed factory output shrank sharply in October in the face of waning orders, while officials pledged further steps to boost domestic demand to keep the economy from slowing too much. Capital controls and the relative conservatism of China's banks have largely insulated the world's fourth-largest economy from direct hits from the global financial crisis, but its reliance on exports to the United States and Europe makes it vulnerable to a drop-off in Western demand.    REUTERS/David Gray    (CHINA) - RTXA6ZX

New Strike Breaks Out at China Factory That Michael Jordan Made Famous

Versha Sharma
Snoop Fancy

Living a Snoop Dogg-Curated Life

Emily Levy

Brazil’s By-The-Hour Love Hotels

Ramon Iriarte
Lionel Gonzalez (16) dreams of crossing the border and reunite with his family in Denver, Colorado. In the background dowtown El Paso

Teens Caught in Cartels’ Trafficking Crossfire

Jan-Albert Hootsen
Ana Paula Maciel Playboy 05

Greenpeace’s Brazilian Playboy Jailbird

Mac Margolis
NASA Selfies 01

NASA Spaces Out Its Social Media Orbit

Emily Levy
Join the Fray
Grounded! Teen Girl Exiled by Virginia Parents to Siberia