Patrons celebrating "Coming Out Day" at a Moscow club were caught off guard by an attack on Friday when they initially thought masked men were part of a planned performance for an open mic session.
The police in Moscow on Friday were seeking two dozen masked men who stormed one of the city’s most popular gay bars early Thursday and beat patrons — most of them women — with fists and bottles. More than 10 people were injured, and three women and a man were hospitalized after the attack, which coincided with a “Coming Out Day” party, club employees said.
The violence comes during an unnerving year for gay men and lesbians in Russia. Three cities, including St. Petersburg, have passed laws criminalizing “homosexual propaganda,” and a spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church, the country’s predominant faith, has endorsed an initiative to introduce the laws nationwide.
So far, no such law has been passed in the capital. However, a measure banning gay pride parades in Moscow for a century, until May 2112, was upheld by the city’s highest court in August.
Although homosexuality was decriminalized in 1993, discrimination against gays remains strong in Russia. Attempts to hold gay pride events have provoked violence by police and militant Orthodox activists.
Independent monitors say this was the seventh violent attack against gays in reported in Russia this year, but said the true number is much higher since many attacks go unreported due to the stigma.