Conclusion for the UN Human Rights Committee


The Legal and Social Support Charitable Foundation Sphere (‘Sphere’) was an NGO based in St. Petersburg, Russia since 2011, through the years having evolved into the biggest Russian LGBT+ foundation. From the onset, Charitable Foundation ‘Sphere’ acted as a fiscal sponsor and implementing body for key LGBT+ rights initiatives across Russia. Most notably, since its establishment, Sphere’s team has been implementing programs and projects under the brand of the Russian LGBT Network, an interregional movement uniting LGBT+ activists and initiatives from all around the country, with 17 regional member organisations.  In April of 2022, it was ruled to dissolve the foundation following a court process brought on by the Russian Ministry of Justice where the organisation’s activity ‘mainly aimed at LGBT+ people’ was found as allegedly ‘undermining moral foundations of the Russian society’.

Sphere’s team has remained intact and maintains its work, preserving and developing programs and activities aimed at supporting the rights of the LGBT+ community throughout Russia. 

“Propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations”

  1. LGBT+ propaganda law adopted in 2013 is applied to persons selectively. No more than 8 people are accused of propaganda per year. Most of the cases are related to propaganda in the Internet. But the goal of this law is not in the punisment of concreet people, but in the ban of the information in the Internet and stimulation of homophobic views of the citizens. Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion to Ukraine, the number of cases of prosecution for LGBT propaganda has increased. In 2022 we are aware of 7 cases in half a year. 

In April, Meta and TikTok were fined for propaganda. In May, a lawyer at the LGBT Resource Center in Yekaterinburg was fined twice for posting information on the organisation’s website. In July, blogger Yury Dud was fined for a video with the artist Pavlov-Andreevich. In August, the head teacher of a school in Yekaterinburg was brought to administrative responsibility for the dance of graduates.

  1. Sphere is aware that since 2019, the FSB has been systematically engaged in identifying “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” on the Internet.

We know that the FSB letters started the “propaganda” cases of Aleksey Pavlov from Naberezhnye Chelny, Ekaterina Topchiy and Sergey from Khabarovsk, Yulia Tsvetkova from Komsomolsk-on-Amur. Sphere’s lawyers applied to FSB with the question, why they but not the police were in charge of this work. The involvement of the FSB shows us that countering information about LGBT+ is part of high-level government policy.

  1. The bill on new legislation around ‘LGBT+ propaganda’ proposed in July of 2022 suggests all information that either denies family values or is a ‘propaganda of non-traditional relations’ be banned, which would potentially restrict access to information. Additionally, in explanatory note the deputees authoring the bill equate information on LGBT+ with the propaganda of suicide, drugs, extremism and criminal behavior, and the LGBT+ people are equated with pedophiles, terrorists and those who are childfree. This signals a worrying trend  that discrimination of LGBT+ people and the association of their identity with outer influence, their invisibility as a social group will be further legitimized in Russia.

Persecution of LGBT+ activists for their human rights activities

  1. In 2021 right after the case of Memorial’s shutdown, Russian authorities started a campaign against other human rights activists. One of the focus groups was LGBT+ organisations and activists. The Ministry of Justice selects key organisations and activists working with LGBT+ rights to be recognized as foreign agents. Now there are 7 individuals and 6 organisations on the list.
  1. In September 2022 the Ministry of Justice shut down the Charitable Foundation Sphere. This suit is politically motivated and has no legal claims, even the judge has mentioned it, when the suit has first reached the court. However, the foregoing consideration is based on the ideological reason, which was literally formulated as follows: ‘LGBT+ – is a community of people united by their sexual and gender identity which goes against the state ideology, aimed at preserving and evolution of the human race’.

LGBTQ persecution in the North Caucasus

  1. The first wave of mass abduction, detention and torture of LGBTQ in Chechnya by law enforcement based on sexual identity broke out in 2017. Since then Russian HRDs assisted more than 170 people to find sanctuary away from the North Caucasus. 
  1. Most of the Chechen survivors did not have a chance to report the ordeals: Russian investigative system identifies Chechen investigators responsible for examining crimes that happen in Chechnya. Police intimidate survivors and report zero complaints from LGBTQ to the Federal authorities.

In 2020, Salman Mukaev filed a report to the Investigative Committee, where he stated that police officers tortured and beat him up forcing Salman to collaboration. The task was to trap and blackmail homosexuals in the region. Once Salman escaped from Chechnya, he was declared wanted upon the fabricated case.

  1. Law enforcement officers typically use fake convictions to prevent leaks which shed light on facts of LGBTQ persecution and to speculate on survivors’ rights and freedoms.

In 2021 Saleh Magomadov and Ismail Isayev were kidnapped from Nizhny Novgorod and tortured by Chechen police. They faced fake charges for affiliation with an armed group, as a result of the brothers’ attempt to escape from illegal persecution. In 2022 Saleh was imprisoned for 8 years and Ismail for 6.

  1. The Investigative Committee received reports on abduction and torture, filed by the victims, and the reports on facts of extra-judicial killing filed on behalf of the witness of crime, but failed to investigate the matter. Perpetrators continue haunting down LGBTQ from the North Caucasus and NGOs, which provide help to them. 

Chechen police kidnapped Ibragim Selimkhanov from the Moscow shelter, drove him to Chechnya and interrogated the group, which had assisted him. Selimkhanov reported the abduction and filed a complaint against the police, which refused to open the case. This evoked nothing but Chechen police to break into his parents’ apartment in Grozny, threaten them and demand to disclose Ibragim’s location. 

  1. We continue receiving reports from Caucasian lesbian and bisexual women (25 hits in 2021), who ask to help them hide from oppression that comes out from their families. Women complain about threats of honor killing and violence that they face when someone learns about their sexual identity. Chechen society dictates that suspicion-based allegations are enough to judge the woman and stigmatise her family as disgraceful. Obeying to social demands their relatives lock down, abuse and subject to conversion therapies queer women.

Violence and access to justice

  1. Russian authorities do not record statistics on violence against LGBTQ neither they prioritise training police or other public institutions and servants with focus on LGBTQ specificity. The lack of systemic approach to combat sexual orientation-based discrimination decreases efficiency potential of any legislation. By contrast, LGBTQ agenda has conventionally been taken as opposing national values and promoted as one. Russian media portray LGBTQ characters in a degrading manner and mock trends on tolerance. Public authorities express solidarity with such a mockery. 
  1. Hate gives rise to violence. According to the Russian LGBT Network statistics, the hate crime rate against LGBTQ has remained the same since 2014 (16%-20%). Only 40% of the victims approach the police, half of the reports are rejected instantly or during the preliminary check. 

In 2021, a homosexual person was attacked in the city center. The assault was premeditated. The survivor documented traumas and reported the case to the police. Two weeks later he learnt that the case wasn’t initiated, investigation was not carried-out. He appealed to a prosecutor, who neither established violations.  

Bisexual woman recounted how a passerby aimed a gun at her after asking about her identity. She filed a complaint with a court regarding police failure to act on the part. 

  1. There are no attempts to impact the situation with violence against LGBTQ on the national level as authorities do not monitor and identify it as a tangible problem.

LGBTQ right to peaceful assembly

  1. During COVID-era authorities continue inflicting disproportionate bans on LGBTQ events, police carry out raids at LGBTQ parties, shuts film-festivals, one-man marches and performances referring to the sanitary law even when related regulations are followed properly. 

In Rostov police broke into the club, forced visitors to face the wall with their hands up on, abused and interrogated 200 people, asking if they knew that the party was LGBTQ-focused. Officially law-enforcement named lockdown restrictions as an official reason for the raid. 

  1. Law enforcement officers put pressure and threaten those involved in LGBTQ event-organising. Unofficial bans make it impossible to appeal against later. Despite the efforts to comply with all relevant rules and regulations, authorities find reasons to prevent LGBTQ gathering.  

In August 2021, a Sports event organised by the LGBTQ group in Nizhny Novgorod was cancelled after police established the venue, rented to provide space for festival workshops, sport game competitions and workout.

In April 2022, a psychological conference dedicated to providing ethical assistance to LGBT clients was disrupted in Khabarovsk. The organisers were greeted at the station by ill-wishers, filmed, forced into a microphone to answer why they had come. They were followed to the hotel where the conference was supposed to take place, but the hotel refused to hold it. The conference was moved to a private house, but soon the landlord called back and said that the police had come to him, demanding that he not hold a “gay party”. The contract was broken. It was decided to hold the conference in an online format, but the Internet “suddenly” turned off in the hotels of the organisers and speakers.

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Мы можем делать это благодаря пожертвованиям. Поэтому поддержите нас, пожалуйста, и оформите пожертвование. Любая сумма, особенно в регулярной форме, позволяет нам не только продолжать нашу работу, но и лучше планировать её. Пожалуйста, подпишитесь на ежемесячное пожертвование в нашу пользу. Спасибо.