The Supreme Court of Russia, Thursday, November 30, banned for extremism the “international LGBT movement” as well as all its “subsidiaries” in Russia, in the midst of an ultraconservative shift in the country. According to Agence France-Presse journalists on site, the judge read his verdict to the press after a closed-door hearing, indicating that the decision came into force “immediately.”

The hearing took place without advocates, as no organization with the name “international LGBT movement” exists in Russia, but the decision by Russia’s highest court could result in the banning of any group defending LGBT causes.

In mid-November, the Russian Justice Ministry asked to qualify as an “extremist organization” and ban “the international LGBT movement,” without clearly saying which organization it was targeting. Any public activity associated with what Russia considers “non-traditional” sexual preferences could now be punished for extremism, a crime punishable by heavy prison sentences.

“A new peak of madness”

Until now, LGBT people already risked heavy fines if they spread their “propaganda”, but not imprisonment. The last decade has seen their rights drastically limited under the leadership of Vladimir Putin, who, with the Orthodox Church, claims to want to eliminate from the public sphere behavior deemed deviant and imported from the West.

Ian Dvorkine, founder in Russia of the NGO Center T, which helps transgender people, fled the country for fear of being accused of extremism and being thrown in prison for having created this association. “Working in Russia becomes very uncertain (…) It looks like [the LGBT activists] who survive will live entirely in hiding,” he told Agence France-Presse.

For him, this trial targeting a “movement” that does not officially exist in Russia is “a new peak of madness”. “Everyone could fall under [this accusation] of extremism,” he says, adding that “more and more people” are asking for help to leave the country.

Since 2013, a law has prohibited the “propaganda” of “non-traditional sexual relations” aimed at minors, a text denounced by NGOs as an instrument of homophobic repression. This law was significantly expanded at the end of 2022. It now bans LGBT “propaganda” to all audiences, in the media, on the Internet, in books and films.

In July, Russian MPs also passed a law targeting transgender people, banning them from transitions, including surgeries and hormonal therapies.