Russian officials bugged a private strategy meeting convened by Russian LGBT activists and four major international human rights organizations in October, an intensification of the campaign to clamp down on LGBT rights ahead of the Olympic games in Sochi.
This surveillance was revealed on Nov. 12, when a state television channel broadcast audio from the meeting as part of a program presented as an exposé of the “threat to Russia” posed by the “homosexualists who attempt to infiltrate our country.”
The inclusion of a few minutes of this audio sent a chill through human rights activists in Russia and abroad. The Russian government has actively suppressed public speech in support of LGBT rights under its ban on the “promotion of non-traditional sexual relations to minors.” But this was the first time activists were aware that authorities had actively spied on strategy meetings organized in private, and it was taken as a sign that the government may be seriously escalating its crackdown on LGBT rights as it looks ahead to the Olympic Games in February.
By highlighting Western human rights groups’ interest in Russia, the program also appeared to be laying the groundwork for potentially accusing LGBT rights activists of being “foreign agents,” which could be grounds for huge fines if activists are found to be taking money from foreign sources without reporting it to the authorities. The “foreign agent” law, passed last year, has been widely criticized for stifling Russia’s already embattled civil society.
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