Tag Archives: Igor Kochetkov

Vitaly Milonov, Petersburg Lawmaker

Vitaly Milonov

Kommersant Saint Petersburg
November 24, 2011

[…]

According to Vitaly Milonov, [consideration of the bill he introduced into the Saint Petersburg Legislative Assembly, which would make “promotion of homosexuality” an administrative offense punishable by fines] was postponed “due to legal ambiguity.” “There are certain slippery aspects in the wording of the bill that might hinder its implementation. Basically, these are terminological ambiguities. For example, the concept of ‘lesbianism.’ It could happen that residents of the Greek island of Lesbos who promote their own lifestyle would be subject to fines,” Mr. Milonov explained to Kommersant. In addition, there is no clarity in how the concept of ‘promotion’ [literally, “propaganda” of homosexuality] would be applied, which the legislative assembly’s legal office also pointed out. Vitaly Milonov admitted that his committee is now considering a legal analysis of the text of the bill prepared by the NGO Lawyers for Constitutional Rights and Freedoms, which “the homosexualists sent” to Mr. Milonov. The multi-page text of the opinion (which Kommersant has obtained a copy of) concludes that the proposed bill is unconstitutional, contradicts a number of international conventions, and “also contains significant shortcomings [from the standpoint] of legal procedure.” Deputy Milonov had to agree with the legal experts and the sexual minorities, saying that now all amendments [to the bill] are being “put in order.”

However, a source in the Legislative Assembly has told Kommersant that deputies are unlikely to consider the bill on fines for gay agitators even at their final session [before the December 4 elections]. “We didn’t expect such a violent reaction in the press. The bill, which is Vitaly Milonov’s pet project, ended up on the agenda through a strange turn of events: United Russia thought that it might generate [positive] ‘campaign buzz’, winning over the conservative part of society. But now we see the opposite effect: the entire country has learned the names of the ‘main homophobes in Russia’ — Milonov and Babich. (LDPR deputy Elena Babich is an active supporter of punishments for gay propagandists.)  This might have a negative impact during the upcoming elections. The next  Legislative Assembly can decide what to do with this foul-smelling story,” the source in the Legislative Assembly told Kommersant.

The gay community notes with satisfaction the contrary effect [generated by] the United Russia initiative. Igor Kochetkov, director of the LGBT organization Coming Out, told Kommersant that if the bill becomes law he will “be the first to have it applied.” “As soon as the law takes effect, I’ll go right to the city prosecutor’s office and demand that Milonov and Babich be prosecuted for promotion of homosexuality,” Mr. Kochetkov promised. “You can’t imagine how people’s attention to our problems has grown after their public statements. We’ve literally been flooded with letters and calls of support. In Russia alone, we’ve collected over ten thousand signatures on a petition against passage of the law.”

Natalia Yevdokimova, secretary of the Petersburg Civil Rights Council and former three-time Legislative Assembly deputy, notes the “extreme illiteracy” of the amendments drafted by Mr. Milonov. “It’s bad enough that he uses non-legal terms, but ‘apples and oranges’ are also mixed up in this document. They want to cram a criminally punishable offense — promotion of pedophilia — into the law on administrative offenses, but pedophilia is purely a matter for the Criminal Code. And I’m confident that any court would immediately toss out these amendments for their flagrant illiteracy,” said Ms. Yevdokimova. It was unclear to her why this bill has appeared on the eve of the elections: “The pre-election stress is bad enough as it is in the entire city, in the country. It is unclear why United Russia wants to add fuel to the fire. It’s just stupid.”

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www.zaks.ru/new/archive/view/67190
March 8, 2010

[…]

Moreover, Milonov noted that former US secretary of state Condoleeza Rice “behaves like a monkey.” “Everyone in United Russia knows that Condoleeza Rice has monkey brains,” Milonov said.

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The following was posted on November 21, 2011, on the LiveJournal blog of Sergei Shestakov, a deputy in Petersburg’s Avtovo municipal district council and a candidate in the upcoming elections to the Petersburg Legislative Assembly. A member of the A Just Russia party, he is running in the same electoral precinct as Vitaly Milonov.

Today I was informed that Vitaly Milonov was again buying off voters — this time not at his constituent outreach office, but at the Orbita movie theater. I decided to find out how much money from the budget Vitaly Milonov had blown on buying food packages.

A very long queue of dozens of people who had braved the cold after hearing about United Russia’s incredible generosity had formed outside the building.

In the Orbita theater itself, people who came were handed food parcels to the tune of six hundred rubles each. The plastic bags, emblazoned with the inscription “All-Russia Popular Front” and [the organization’s] emblem, each contained a tin of caviar, a box of candies, a cake, canned peas and corn, coffee, and other products. United Russian and Milonov campaign brochures had been carefully planted in each parcel. The people in [United Russia] scarves [who handed out the parcels] did not specify how to eat [the brochures].

When my campaign agent asked the staff (the women handing out the presents, who walked around in United Russia scarves) whether they thought this was bribery of voters, they confidently replied that it was the social security department that was handing everything out. The Milonov Social Security Department was generous: all the rooms were filled with boxes, and it was hard to elbow one’s way past them.

People stood outside in the light frost, waiting for rations, as if this were still the time of the Siege [of Leningrad, during WWII]. The fact that the products purchased were the cheapest, and not very fresh, hardly bothered them at all.

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The Campaign against Petersburg’s Proposed Homophobic Law

Breaking News: Interfax, Gazeta.Ru and other sources are now reporting that during its session today (November 23), the Petersburg Legislative Assembly has decided to postpone indefinitely the second reading of its draft law banning the “promotion of homosexuality.” United Russia deputy Vitaly Milonov, the bill’s author, is quoted as saying that the postponement was necessary in order to “clarify all the legal definitions involved in this law.”

The Mariinsky Palace, home of the legislative assembly, was picketed this morning by several dozen LGBT activists and their supporters.

It’s clear that the spirited fightback by local activists and the extremely negative publicity the proposed bill has generated in the international press and international public opinion have begun to sway minds in the legislative assembly.

Help activists keep up the pressure by:

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Amnesty International Slams Gay Law
By Sergey Chernov
The St. Petersburg Times
November 23, 2011

A protester holds a sign Sunday reading ‘I’m a lesbian. A person, not propaganda.’ Photo: Sergey Chernov

The St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly is encountering increased criticism from within Russia and abroad as it gets ready to pass United Russia’s anti-gay law in a second reading. Meanwhile, Russian officials are talking about expanding the anti-“gay propaganda” law proposed by Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev’s party to the entire nation.

Amnesty International, which condemned the draft law as “draconian,” warned that the measure will rule out nearly all public events carried out by or on behalf of LGBT people and organizations and their reaching out to the media and the Internet, severely curtailing the publication of anything relating to LGBT rights or providing assistance or advice.

“This bill is a thinly-veiled attempt to legalize discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people in Russia’s second-biggest city,” Amnesty International Europe and Central Asia Director Nicola Duckworth said in a statement Friday.

“The notion that [LGBT] rights activists are somehow converting Russia’s youth through ‘propaganda’ would be laughable if the potential effects of this new law weren’t so dangerous and wide-reaching… Instead of seeking to restrict freedom of expression and assembly for [LGBT] people, the Russian authorities should be doing more to safeguard their rights and protect them from discrimination and violence.”

Earlier, the European Parliament Intergroup on LGBT Rights addressed the Legislative Assembly in an open letter, reminding it that Russia is party to both the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which make clear that the freedom to receive and impart information cannot be limited, except under the ambit of public order.

“We’re getting great behind-the-scenes support, with certain [European] deputies and ministers calling the Legislative Assembly’s deputies and [its United Russia chair Vadim] Tyulpanov and speaking to them,” said Igor Kochetkov, director of the LGBT rights organization Vykhod (Coming Out).

“Sometimes even we don’t know who exactly is calling, but we know that it’s happening.”

The All Out web site launched a petition against the bill Monday. It had been signed by 115,345 people around the world by Tuesday evening. [Editor’s Note. On Wednesday morning, it had been signed by 157,265 people.]

On Saturday, LGBT activists seized the podium of a forum for NGOs from Northern Europe and Russia, whose priority topics were equality, tolerance and gender equality. Local officials spoke about the tolerance program and human rights protection in the city.

Kochetkov, who managed to get hold of the microphone between the speeches, urged the forum to draft a resolution on the issue, and the forum’s international participants to inform their governments about gross violations of human rights in Russia.

Activists in the audience had posters, one of which read “Tolerance is for society, not only for international forums!”

The draft law, which was introduced by the chair of the Legislative Assembly’s legislation committee and United Russia deputy Vitaly Milonov on Nov. 11, was passed by the Legislative Assembly almost unanimously in its first hearing on Nov. 16.

Thirty seven deputies voted for the law, one against and one abstained.

The second hearing was scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 23. The bill will become a law when it has passed three hearings and is signed by the governor.

In the past week, the bill was backed by a federal official and a number of Moscow deputies who suggested a similar draft law might be introduced in Moscow as well.

Valentina Matviyenko, Chair of the Federation Council and former St. Petersburg Governor, supported the bill when speaking in the Ryazan Oblast on Thursday, adding it might be expanded throughout the whole of Russia.

“If I were a member of the Legislative Assembly, I would support this bill, because no one has the right to involve a child in things like that,” Matviyenko was quoted as saying.

“And everything that destroys the mind and health of a child, a minor — all this should be strictly blocked. If this law has a positive effect, then we can consider expanding it to the national level.”

Natalya Yevdokimova and Ksenia Vakhrusheva of the Yabloko Democratic Party see the bill as a populist pre-election stunt by United Russia as polls show the party rapidly losing popularity.

Alexander Vinnikov of the St. Petersburg Human Rights Council sees the bill as more than just a pre-election stunt.

Drawing comparison to anti-gay legislation in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union that adopted laws punishing homosexuals in the 1930s, Vinnikov explained the bill as an attempt at consolidating society on the foundation of hatred toward a minority.

“Every totalitarian regime started from persecuting gays. I urge the public to condemn this bill as a drift toward totalitarianism,” he said Tuesday.

As public protests in St. Petersburg continued, the activists encountered arrests and violence. Two activists were detained outside the Legislative Assembly on Nov. 16 and charged with holding an unauthorized rally.

On Sunday, after the largest rally against the bill held so far, which took place on Palace Square near the Winter Palace, several supporters were beaten by young men wearing black coats and hoods. The rally consisted of a dozen activists standing with posters, while about 150 supported them with applause.

A group of social workers were assaulted soon after the rally as they walked near the Moika River, close to Palace Square. Six to eight attackers charged them, punching and kicking them, activists said.

The attack left a young Russian woman with a bruised face, another with a cut lip, and one German man with a broken tooth, according to Vykhod’s press officer Gulya Sultanova.

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http://www.amnestyusa.org/news/news-item/russia-st-petersburg-urged-to-halt-draconian-anti-gay-bill
November 18, 2011
Russia: St. Petersburg urged to halt draconian anti-gay bill

Amnesty International today urged authorities in Russia’s second largest city not to enact a homophobic bill, saying it would threaten freedom of expression and fuel discrimination against the city’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community.

The bill, which St. Petersburg’s city assembly passed nearly unanimously on the first of three readings on Wednesday, effectively bans public events by LGBTI people and organizations under the pretext of protecting minors.

If enacted, the law would allow authorities to impose fines of up to the equivalent of US$1,600 for “public actions aimed at propaganda of sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality, and transgenderism among minors.”

“This bill is a thinly veiled attempt to legalize discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people in Russia’s second-biggest city,” said Nicola Duckworth, Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Programme Director.

“The notion that LGBTI rights activists are somehow converting Russia’s youth through ‘propaganda’ would be laughable, if the potential effects of this new law weren’t so dangerous and wide-reaching.”

Local LGBTI rights activists have blasted the law, saying it will provide legal cover for banning any of their actions, including the distribution of information leaflets or even actions against homophobia.

Under the measure, freedom of assembly and expression for LGBTI groups would be prohibited anywhere children might be present. This would rule out nearly all public events carried out by or on behalf of LGBTI people and organizations.

The publication of anything relating to LGBTI rights or providing assistance or advice – including informative leaflets as well as publications in the media and on the internet – would also be severely curtailed.

Other Russian cities like Moscow have planned legislation to ban “propaganda for homosexuality”, while Arkhangelsk and the region of Riazan have already introduced such legislation.

Although consensual same-sex activity was decriminalized in Russia in 1993, LGBTI people still face widespread discrimination and violence.

LGBTI activists’ attempts to organize Pride marches, cultural festivals and other events in major cities, including St. Petersburg, have frequently been met with official red tape and violence from anti-gay groups, among them people associating themselves with the Orthodox Church. Violent attacks against LGBTI activists often go unpunished.

“Legislation like that proposed in St. Petersburg will only further marginalize LGBTI people, and must be stopped,” said Nicola Duckworth.

“Instead of seeking to restrict freedom of expression and assembly for LGBTI people, Russian authorities should be doing more to safeguard their rights and protect them from discrimination and violence.”

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Russia: A Bill to Silence Millions (petition) / LGBT Activists Crash NGO Forum in Petersburg

www.allout.org/en/actions/russia_silenced

Russia: a bill to silence millions

Russian%20activists_large

Russian LGBT activists are detained for the simple act of publicly demanding their rights.

57,608
GOAL: 75,000
57,608 people support this campaign. Help us get to 75,000.

Political leaders in St. Petersburg are about to vote on law that will make it illegal for any person to write a book, publish an article or speak in public about being gay, lesbian or transgender. The ruling party led by President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin could make millions of people invisible with the stroke of a pen. Human rights defenders around the country are doing everything they can to stop it. They are risking their freedom to organize flashmobs and protests, but they are afraid that it won’t be enough. Right now, the world needs to speak up and tell Russian authorities to drop the bill. Join this call to leaders around the world to reach out to their counterparts in the Russian government – and ask them to reject this discriminatory and anti-democratic law.

TO WORLD LEADERS:

The party led by Russian President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin is pushing discriminatory legislation against lesbian, bi, gay and trans people that could eliminate their freedom to speak publicly and assemble. Russia is a signatory to numerous international human rights treaties – including the European Convention on Human Rights. We call on you to urgently speak out and hold Russia accountable to its treaty obligations – and stand with LGBT Russians whose ability to speak for themselves is under attack.

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Sign the petition here.

You can see Sergey Chernov’s photo reportage of Sunday’s flash mob against the proposed law on Palace Square here.

On November 16, the International Day for Tolerance, Petersburg LGBT activists and their supporters picketed the Saint Petersburg Legislative Assembly.

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Echo Moscow in St. Petersburg · November 20, 2011

Gay activists seized the podium of an international forum to be heard

On November 19, as part of Finland’s presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers, a forum for NGOs from Northern Europe and Russia opened in Saint Petersburg.

Among the announced priority topics of the forum were equality, tolerance and gender equality.

Representatives of the State Duma, the Government of Saint Petersburg, and the Saint Petersburg Legislative Assembly of Saint Petersburg (Vatanyar Yagya) spoke at length about how Saint Petersburg is a progressive city, and the protection of human rights is an extremely important task for the governments of Russia and Petersburg.

While one of the scheduled speakers lingered on his way to the podium, LGBT activists from the Russian LGBT Network, Coming Out, and the Side by Side Film Festival took the floor.

Igor Kochetkov’s speech was brief: during the minute and a half that he was able to to hold onto the microphone, Kochetkov managed to report on the homophobic bill [now under consideration in the Petersburg Legislative Assembly], gross human rights violations in Saint Petersburg and Russia, and the lack of reaction on the part of officials to complaints by citizens and organizations. He urged the forum to draft a resolution on this issue, and the forum’s international participants to inform their governments about the despotism of the Russian authorities.

During Igor Kochetkov’s speech, the activists, who had made their way into the hall in advance under the guise of forum participants and had nearly been put to sleep by the lovely speeches of the Russian bureaucrats, unfurled banners (“Tolerance is for society, not only for international forums!” Russia! Respect Gay and Lesbian Human Rights,” “Let’s Stop the Homophobic Law Together!” “Deputies! Respect the Russian Federation Constitution”) and handed out leaflets.

Officials and representatives of Russian and foreign NGOs listened to the speech in total silence; some applauded. At the exit of the conference room, as they hurried to leave the premises, the activists were met by a security guard who escorted them to the front door of the hotel.

An activist with a video camera who remained in the hall managed to record the following speech, by the Russian Presidential Plenipotentiary in the Northwest Federal District, which was full of sparkling humor. He said that the applause after the appearance by the activists was actually applause for Russia’s democracy, and that garden homes were the pillar of the strong Russian family.

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Queerfest: The Art of Being Yourself (Petersburg)

The St. Petersburg Times
September 14, 2011
The art of being yourself
By Sergey Chernov

Consulates of the U.K., the Netherlands and Sweden are supporting a major gay rights cultural event that opens in St. Petersburg this week, as national statistics show that homophobic attitudes are on the rise in Russia.

Called Queerfest, the ten-day festival, featuring music, dance, art, lectures and debates, was launched by Vykhod (Coming Out), the local LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) rights group in 2009.

“I am looking forward to visiting this year’s St. Petersburg Queerfest because I believe that gay people should be able to live without fear of discrimination or criminalization,” said British Consul General Gareth Ward in an email this week.

“Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people make a big contribution to British cultural life — St. Petersburg’s sister city Manchester has a famous gay pride event. This can be an important and fun way of celebrating diversity and tolerance in Russia as well.”

Homophobia is a problem in many countries, Ward went on.

“The U.K. is a world leader in supporting LGBT equality, but we are not complacent,” he said.

“Last year the U.K. government passed an ambitious program to tackle prejudices. In Russia, homosexuality was decriminalized in the 1990s, but there is a long way to go to remove social stigmatization and hate crime. Civil society groups such as Vykhod are leading the way.”

Ward will speak at the opening of Queerfest on Thursday, Sept. 15, along with the Netherlands Consul General Yennes de Mol.

The Swedish Consulate has also backed the event by sending a letter of support, which can be read on Queerfest’s web site.

The motto of this year’s festival is the “Art of Being Yourself.”

“It’s dedicated to the subject of self-expression through art by different people, regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity,” Vykhod director Igor Kochetkov said.

“We want to approach this subject both through works and speeches of artists and through discussing the issues of the freedom of expression and its borders with human rights activists, representatives of public and religious organizations, and journalists.”

The festival’s diverse program includes photo exhibitions by World Press Photo award-winning Italian photographer Mattia Insolera and the Moscow-based contemporary artist Serge Golovach.

The festival will open at the KvARTira gallery at 130 Nevsky Prospekt, where Queerography, an exhibition of work by various photographers, will be held, as well as several other events.

One day of the festival will be devoted to feminism, while another will concentrate on human rights issues.

Queerfest will end with a rock concert called Stop Homophobia! at the Avrora Concert Hall on Sept. 25. Headlined by Moldovan folk-punk band Zdob Si Zdub, it will feature Cuibul (also from Moldova), the Moscow band FiLLiN and St. Petersburg’s own Iva Nova, Monoliza and Snega.

Last year, the festival came under pressure from the authorities when the state-owned House of Artists canceled a photography exhibition — and the festival’s planned opening — at the last minute, allegedly after getting a telephone call from City Hall’s Culture Committee.

The exhibition and the opening were hastily moved to a new location, the underground vegan establishment V-Club, and journalists were asked not to disclose the site until a specific time in case the authorities attempted to shut it down there as well.

“The cancellation caused a big stir in the press and eventually the Culture Committee was forced to speak on behalf of tolerance,” Kochetkov said.

Although the Culture Committee has never admitted to issuing a ban on the festival, Kochetkov said he was told about the order by the House of Artists’ director himself.

Kochetkov said that this year, the festival’s organizers invited representatives of the Culture Committee to the opening. “They asked us, ‘Is the venue state-owned?’ We said, ‘No.’”

As of Tuesday, this year’s preparations had gone smoothly, though Kochetkov said that last year the problems did not start until two days before the opening.

According to Kochetkov, representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church flatly refused to participate in debates, although local television presenter Valery Tatarov, who has been criticized for making homophobic statements, readily agreed.

Kochetkov welcomes Tatarov’s participation in the debates, emphasizing that the presenter has not called for violence against homosexuals.

“We wouldn’t invite people who incite violence, because they should be dealt with by the law, first and foremost,” he said.

On Saturday, the Orthodox Church described homosexuality as “a sinful distortion of human nature” on its web site, calling gays and lesbians “spiritually unhealthy.”

Queerfest’s organizers cite a Levada Center poll that showed that homophobia is on the rise in Russia.

Compared to a 2005 poll, the 2010 poll showed that the number of people who think that gays and lesbians should be “let be” dropped 5 percent during the past five years, while the number of people who think that gays and lesbians should be given medical treatment or isolated from society increased by 4 and 6 percent, respectively.

Seventy-four percent of the respondents said that homosexuals are morally corrupt or mentally handicapped people, 24 percent suggested that they should get psychological help, 39 percent think that they should be forced to undergo medical treatment or be isolated from society, while 4 percent believe that such people should be “liquidated.”

“These figures show that society has grown less indifferent to the very fact of the existence of people of different orientations, and that gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people have to fight for their right to be themselves,” Kochetkov said.

“To fight, above all, ignorance and cruelty — things that are dangerous for everybody. This means that we are fighting not for our narrow interests, but for the common cause, to make our society more human and free.”

All Queerfest events are open to the public, except for the opening, which is invitation-only. For a full program, see www.queerfest.ru.

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