On Wednesday, Russian Ambassador Ivan Soltanovsky rejected calls from the Council of Europe to repeal the 2013 law, which forbids the spread of information on “nontraditional sexual relations” to minors. He said the council’s European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) “exceeded its authority” in urging the “protection of sexual minorities,” which he claimed “is not part of its mandate.”
“In this regard, the calls to prioritize the repeal of the legal ban on the provision of information about homosexuality to minors are legally null and void, and are nothing else but interference in Russia’s internal affairs.”
Soltanovsky added that Russia’s government leaders do not “consider ourselves in any way bound by the conclusions and recommendations” from the Council of Europe. Founded in the wake of World War II to advance human rights and international cooperation, the organization counts 47 member states, including France, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Its resolutions are generally nonbinding.
“We will continue cooperation with the ECRI under the condition that the commission will refrain from crossing the well-known ‘red lines’ in the future,” he said, suggesting instead that the council divert its attention to topics like “the fight against Nazism,” “Christianophobia,” and “restrictions on the freedom of expression and the media.”
Russia’s intransigence regarding its “propaganda” ban is not a surprise considering that lawmakers have proposed intensifying the country’s anti-LGBTQ+ codes in recent months. In March, President Vladimir Putin’s ruling United Russia party unveiled plans to outlaw depictions of bisexuality and polyamory, which are not expressly forbidden under the current laws.
Last month, Kremlin leader Andrey Tsyganov floated the idea of labeling pro-LGBTQ+ and feminist groups as “extremist” in order to prevent them from operating in Russia.
Russia’s clash with the Council of Europe over its homophobic policies is just the skirmish on the subject of LGBTQ+ equality, as several European nations embrace policies similar to those Russia is defending.
Earlier this year, the European Commission threatened to file legal action against Hungary and Poland for cracking down on LGBTQ+ rights.
But even as Russia refuses to budge, the pending lawsuit from the European Union’s executive branch is making a significant impact. At least four Polish provinces have repealed their “LGBT-free” resolutions in recent weeks under the threat of losing critical EU funding.
For its part, Russia has faced several lawsuits from international human rights authorities over its anti-LGBTQ+ laws, which have led to a twofold increase in hate crimes since they were enacted eight years ago. The European Court of Human Rights fined Putin’s government 42,500 Euros in 2019 for refusing to allow three LGBTQ+ groups to register as recognized organizations.