Russian Court Drops "Gay Propaganda" Fine Against Support Group Founder

Elena Klimova, founder of a group for LGBT youth called Children-404, still faces another legal battle.

A Russian court has overturned on procedural grounds a decision to fine the leader of an online support group for LGBT teens for violating the country's "gay propaganda" ban.

Elena Klimova, the 27-year-old journalist behind Children-404, had appealed the January verdict on the grounds that she had not broken the law and the court had violated procedure in reviewing her case.

"We attached to the case the examination conducted by an expert accredited by [the federal communications agency] Roskomnadzor, as demanded by Roskomnadzor," Klimova wrote on the Russian social network VKontakte. "And that expert did not see propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors in my actions."

The ruling handed down by a district court on Wednesday in the city of Nizhny Tagil, where Klimova lives, sends the case back to magistrate court. But it doesn't mean her legal troubles are over.

On April 6, a court in St. Petersburg will consider a request from the youth wing of Vladimir Putin's United Russia party, backed by the general prosecutor's office, to have Children-404's online group blocked in Russia.

Youth wing organizer Kirill Grinchenko told the Russian newspaper Vedemosti that the public nature of the online community — as opposed to, say, a private hotline for LGBT teens — raised concerns.

"We hope that the court will make a fair decision and the project will no longer engage in propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors, under the guide of supposedly good intentions," he said in a statement on the United Russia youth wing's website.

On VKontakte, Klimova said Wednesday's ruling put the upcoming St. Petersburg proceedings on shaky ground, as they were dependent on the initial guilty verdict. "I believe there are currently no legal grounds for blocking our group on VKontakte," she wrote. "We'll keep working."