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Russian Activist Charged Under "Gay Propaganda" Law

Dmitry Isakov may become the first person convicted under a law banning "promoting non-traditional sexual relations."

Posted on September 1, 2013, at 3:53 p.m. ET / Via VK

Dmitry Isakov holds a sign reading "Being gay and loving gays is normal. Beating gays and killing gays is a crime!"

An LGBT activist risks becoming the first person convicted under Russia's new anti-gay law after police charged him for holding a one-man protest against it.

Police in the central Russian city of Kazan filed charges against Dmitry Isakov Thursday for his protest on July 30 this year, his legal team told BuzzFeed. Isakov stood in the city center holding a sign that said, "Being gay and loving gays is normal. Beating gays and killing gays is a crime!"

Isakov, 24, is not the first person charged under the law, passed in late June, but stands a good change of being the first person convicted under it, his legal team said. Police in the northern city of Murmansk arrested four Dutch nationals making a film about discrimination faced by LGBT Russians in July, but a local judge decided not to pursue the charges. A Moscow court referred charges against six activists arrested for a protest outside a children's library a few days later back to the police, citing irregularities.

Police filed the charges on the basis of a complaint from a teenager in the northern Arkhangelskaya province who had seen Isakov's protest online. The teenager, Erik Fedoseyev, wrote that he had been forced to write the complaint by his father, who hates LGBT people because his ex-wife, Fedoseyev's mother, had left the family to live with another woman when he was four. Intolerance and incomprehension lead many LGBT Russians to hide their orientation and start straight families.

The charges are only the latest consequence Isakov has faced for his protest. He told London's The Times that four policemen beat him so badly after he left the protest that he had to walk on crutches for 10 days. When his injured knee allowed him to return to work at a local branch of Sberbank, the former Soviet banking behemoth, he learned that he had been abruptly fired. Sberbank said that the woman he was providing long-term maternity cover for had cut her three-year leave early and that the protest was not a factor in his dismissal.

Isakov attempted to hold another one-man protest in the same place, but it was broken up by his own parents, who had been told by police that he would be jailed under the propaganda law. He faces a fine of up to 5,000 rubles ($150) if convicted. Officials found guilty under the law can be fined ten times that, while the maximum fine for people who use the media or the internet to promote homosexuality to minors is 100,000 rubles ($3,000).

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    Max Seddon is a correspondent for BuzzFeed World based in Berlin. He has reported from Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and across the ex-Soviet Union and Europe. His secure PGP fingerprint is 6642 80FB 4059 E3F7 BEBE 94A5 242A E424 92E0 7B71

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A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.