Russian security forces raided gay clubs and bars across Moscow on Friday night, less than 48 hours after the country's top court banned what it called the "global LGBTQ+ movement" as an extremist organization. Police searched venues across the capital, including a nightclub, a male sauna, and a bar that hosted LGBTQ+ parties, under the pretext of a drug raid, local media reported. Eyewitnesses told journalists that clubgoers' documents were checked and photographed by members of the security services, the AP reports. They said that managers had been able to warn patrons before police arrived.
The raids follow a decision by Russia's Supreme Court on a lawsuit filed by the Justice Ministry. It's the latest step in a decade of increasing restrictions on LGBTQ+ rights under President Vladimir Putin, who has emphasized "traditional family values" during his 24 years in power. Activists noted the lawsuit was lodged against a movement that is not an official entity, and that under its broad and vague definition, authorities could crack down on any individuals or groups deemed to be part of it. Several LGBTQ+ venues immediately closed, including St. Petersburg's gay club Central Station. It wrote on social media Friday that the owner would no longer allow the bar to operate with the law in effect.
Max Olenichev, a human rights lawyer who works with the Russian LGBTQ+ community, said before the ruling that it effectively prohibits organized activity to defend the rights of LGBTQ+ people. The Supreme Court case is classified, and it remains unclear how LGBTQ+ activists and symbols will be restricted. Many people will consider leaving Russia before they become targeted, said Olga Baranova, director of the Moscow Community Center for LGBTQ+ Initiatives. "It is clear for us that they're once again making us out as a domestic enemy to shift the focus from all the other problems that are in abundance in Russia," Baranova told the AP.