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Foreign Correspondent -

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CAMPBELL: I’ve just arrived in St Petersburg for the opening of Queer Fest, the city’s annual gay festival, and I’m racing to get to the launch party before police close it down. Since July promoting homosexuality has been a criminal offence.

“Well we’ve just arrived at the venue for the opening of Queer Fest and there are three police cars and some fourteen police apparently on the lookout for gay propaganda”.

That’s the official term for suggesting that it’s okay to be gay. If you suggest it to anyone under 18, you can be arrested. The law against so-called gay propaganda to minors has made the festival a pariah. Forty venues refused to host the launch before this 17th floor gallery came to the rescue. Polina, who’s now scared to give her surname, is Queer Fest’s main organiser.

POLINA: [activist] “Nobody knows what propaganda means. It’s vague and it’s deliberately vague because then our government can use this law arbitrarily to apply to anything, any open expression of homosexuality. So really it drives all these people out of public space”.

CAMPBELL: The law has caused outrage in the liberal West. Diplomats from Britain, Sweden and the Netherlands have come to lend high-profile support.

KLAAS HUISMAN: [Acting Dutch Consul-General] “The Prime Minister has told President Putin the other Ministers, their counterparts, that they find this law against European law on human rights. So you have to say to what you think is not right and is discrimination. So that is what we do and what we will keep doing”.

CAMPBELL: Earlier in the evening this local politician tried to have them all thrown out, including the diplomats.

VITALY MILONOV: [Politician] [at Queer Fest] “We are looking at how European countries officials support those who rape kids, those who support sodomites. I think it would be nice for the Dutch people to know that the representative of the Dutch government is supporting those who are against Christians”.

[in office] “Why it’s polite to act like this in Russia? It shows that these countries, honestly, they don’t respect us”.

CAMPBELL: Vitaly Milonov heads the legislative committee of the St Petersburg city government. He drafted a ban on gay propaganda that became the model for the national law. He told police that Queer Fest was in blatant violation.

VITALY MILONOV: “They are coming out with the slogans of Sodom and Gomorrah to spread propaganda.

MALE ACTIVIST: “On what basis should we be kicked out of here?”

VITALY MILONOV: “Aren’t we Russian people? You are not true Russians, but we are. Tell us where the money you live off comes from?”

WOMAN: You know the Constitution? You should know the constitution of our common country. I have the same country as you - Russia - and you should know this perfectly well. If you don’t know, you’re dodgy. We have a multicultural state.

CAMPBELL: For once, he didn’t get what he wanted and the festival went ahead. It’s organised by a group called ‘Vixhod’ meaning ‘Coming Out’ but thanks to Milonov’s law all this year’s events will be inside.

POLINA: “People are intimidated. People are afraid. They don’t know what is legal and not legal to do. I don’t know if I can hold hands with my girlfriend in the street and everybody’s just feeling this pressure all the time. That’s what it’s all about”.

CAMPBELL: A video message from an esteemed gay celebrity urges them to carry on.

STEPHEN FRY: “Hello I’m Stephen Fry. I’m sitting here in the offices of Vixhod, in St Petersburg. I came here on a journey to find out just exactly what this new homophobic law is about and although I’ve been horrified and upset and angry, at the brutish tyranny of so many of the homophobic people who are supported by the local government and indeed the federal government, what has touched me much more has been the work of the activists of Vixhod and the people who stand up to bullying, stand up to homophobia, stand up to name calling, stand up to violence. And Vixhod is wicked. Thank you”.

CAMPBELL: The sentiments go down well with the LGBT crowd, meaning lesbians, gays, bisexuals and trans-gendered. But the overwhelming majority of Russians support the new law. The country has never departed from the view that sex is only normal between a man and a woman. Even in the relatively gay-friendly world of showbiz, popular celebrities are actively backing it.

Valeriya Perfilova is one of Russia’s favourite entertainers, performing around the world and even at the Kremlin.

VALERIYA PERFILOVA: “I think it’s our duty to protect our children from any kind of sexual propaganda because their mind is so vulnerable to process information of any kind of sexual relations whether straight or gay. It doesn’t matter, even me I would prefer not to know who sleeps with whom. I think the person’s private life has to be left behind their doors”.

CAMPBELL: As well as being an acclaimed singer, Valeriya is a devoted mother of three. Like many Russians, she wonders why her country’s being picked on when scores of other countries don’t even allow gay sex.

VALERIYA PERFILOVA: “Nobody discriminates them because they are everywhere, in every sphere of social life and we have a lot of friends who are gay”.

CAMPBELL: “So you have nothing against anyone being gay?”

VALERIYA PERFILOVA: “No, no not at all. It’s… I’m against ah… they need to shout it in the media. It’s quite unnatural. Why should I know who does this or that, who prefers this or… why should I know? I don’t care. I think it’s not decent at least. We were brought up like this. It’s not decent to speak about it”.

CAMPBELL: Masha Gessen is also a mother of three but sees the issue very differently. She’s the ultimate suspect minority - a US-educated dissident writer who is also a Jewish lesbian.

MASHA GESSEN: [political commentator] “Russia is not a tolerant society. When the West was having a sexual revolution and the gay liberation movement in the 60s, 70s and 80s we had the Soviet Union. We didn’t have any of that. We don’t have a way of talking about these things. This is really the first time that homosexuality has been discussed in public in Russia and this is the way it’s been discussed. So it’s very easy, it’s very easy to turn people who are already not particularly tolerant, not accustomed to talking about these things, to turn them violently against a social group and that’s exactly what’s happened. We’ve seen a huge rise in anti-gay violence”.


CAMPBELL: And they’ve seen it all over the internet. Vigilantes have been luring gays to parks, accusing them of being paedophiles and publicly humiliating them. Every encounter recorded and uploaded to far-Right websites.

POLINA: “All of that appeared after propaganda laws. This group of people Occupy Paedophilia it’s called they are posting videos of young gay men being tortured and obviously they open themselves in the videos and the police is not doing anything to investigate”.

CAMPBELL: Some might see this as bullies picking on a weak minority, but Vitaly Milonov says he’s fighting Satan.
As well as being a politician, he’s an Orthodox Church deacon.

VITALY MILONOV: “It’s a sin. We... as a Christian, I cannot allow.. because I’m elected as a Christian, a member of parliament... because I never hide that.....I’m a Christian. I think that a society that legalise sin cannot do it because sins are written not by men but by humans, it’s written by God a list of the sins. That’s why society that legalise sin is going down terrifically”.

CAMPBELL: Even so he insists his law isn’t anti-gay, it’s just pro-children. Homosexuals can still do what they want behind closed doors but from now on they can’t tell anyone under 18 that it’s normal.

VITALY MILONOV: “It’s legal.... or.... to smoke a cigarette, it’s legal to smoke a cigarette, but no one is able to make propaganda of cigarettes or spicy food among very small kids. It’s not… it will.... it can kill a kid to give him spicy food, but it’s nice for an adult.
We are talking about lessons in the schools with the assistance of LGBT organisation describing that it can be not only Santa Claus, one Santa Claus, it can be a couple of Santa Claus’s - you know... that they are destroying the fairy tales of Europe, changing them from princess and a prince to two princes or two queens living together”.

CROWD CHANTING: Gay rights for Russia!... Gay rights for Russia!

CAMPBELL: The repercussions of Milonov’s law are spreading around the globe. Protests have been held in 30 countries, like this one outside Downing Street in London.


Many are demanding a boycott of the Winter Olympics to be held in the Russian city of Sochi in February.

PAUL O’GRADY (PROTESTOR): “We should boycott the Games completely. Boycott them. Any civilised culture should boycott them for this. If this was about people of colour or about religion oh there’d be a huge human cry but it’s not. Because it’s gay men and women oh f**k them - you know what I mean? Pardon the language folks”.

CAMPBELL: Britain’s government opposes a boycott but both sides of parliament decry the law. Chris Bryant, an openly gay Labour MP, warned it could potentially ensnare Russia’s president.

CHRIS BRYANT: “And by the way can I just say to Mr Putin that every time he postures with his shirt off again, people might start thinking he’s promoting homosexuality”.

CAMPBELL: Vladimir Putin is renowned for baring his chest, usually during manly stunts. Even fully clothed he’s Russia’s ultimate man’s man. He just has to plunge a net into water to catch a king-sized trout. The national parliament, the Duma, is just as firmly in his grip. It passed the gay propaganda law without a single dissenting vote.

MASHA GESSEN: “I mean I don’t think he’s a visceral homophobe. He’s just a basic, primitive xenophobe and this particular brand of xenophobia is convenient and politically..... feels politically right to him at the moment”.

CAMPBELL: Masha Gessen was among scores of protestors at the Duma the day the law was passed. Vigilantes attacked them as police looked on. She and her partner are now planning to move the family to the US.

MASHA GESSEN: “We have three kids and we violate the homosexual propaganda law every day, many times a day because every time we indicate that we believe in social equality of traditional and non-traditional marital relations, which is how the law puts it, we violate the law. So theoretically, it is possible to start hauling us into the police station today, several times a day for instances of violation”.

CAMPBELL: One group the police aren’t hauling in is the far-right, anti-gay gang known as Occupy Paedophilia. Its members log onto gay websites posing as teenagers. If anyone responds they cajole him to a meeting place and pounce. What follows is brutal degradation. The gang acting as police, judge and jury. The harassment goes on until they agree they’re paedophiles.

GROUP MEMBER: “Tell us why you were meeting him?”

VICTIM: “Just to talk. I wasn’t going to sleep with him”.

CAMPBELL: On the few occasions police intervene, they arrest the gang’s victims. One of the most active members is a 24 year old woman named Yekaterina Zigunova. She sees all homosexuals as potential or actual paedophiles.

YEKATERINA ZIGUNOVA: “Are you homosexual?”


YEKATERINA ZIGUNOVA: “No? Speak louder!”

VICTIM: “No, no”.

YEKATERINA ZIGUNOVA: “Are you having sex with boys or girls?”

VICTIM: “With girls”.

CAMPBELL: After contacting her on her website, she agreed to meet up in one of the parks where they lure their victims. In person, Yekaterina is remarkably polite and friendly.

YEKATERINA ZIGUNOVA: “The objective of the movement is to look for paedophile-minded residents - to find them and reveal their intentions and consequently to film a video that will leave them publicly disgraced”.

CAMPBELL: She and her friends carry out their entrapments every Saturday. They call them ‘safaris’ as if they’re hunting animals. The clips can be sickening - one showing a man being forced to drink his urine.

CAMPBELL: “Isn’t that cruel?”

YEKATERINA ZIGUNOVA: “Well, it seems to me paedophilia itself is more cruel than exposing it.

CAMPBELL: For generations the Communist Party and the Orthodox Church made little distinction between gays and child molesters. When Stalin outlawed homosexuality in 1933 his officials began denouncing gays as pederasts, degenerate aristocrats and traitors. Gay sex remained a serious crime until 1993 - two years after the Soviet Union collapsed - but the old prejudices have found new life.

YEKATERINA ZIGUNOVA: “The paedophiles that come are almost all homosexual so I have to get acquainted with them while talking to them. Otherwise, fortunately I have no such acquaintances”.


YEKATERINA ZIGUNOVA: “Because there is nothing for me to discuss with them… nothing to talk about”.

CAMPBELL: “Do you view them as ‘dirty’ people?”

YEKATERINA ZIGUNOVA: “No, from my viewpoint they are not dirty people. We just have different interests, let us put it like that. It’s like when one enjoys a certain music style, while the other likes a different one. They have one preference, while I have another. I’ll never find a common language with them”.

CAMPBELL: Yekaterina clearly enjoys her internet notoriety. In one video she talks about hunting gays with guns.

YEKATERINA ZIGUNOVA: [standing in open field] “We do a ‘safari’ once a week. Paedophiles and faggots are completely nuts. They creep into the main square with a banner of tolerance. At this meeting we decided to arm ourselves with something besides rubber truncheons.
Dmitry, do you see the target?”

DIMITRY: “I have the target”. [begins shooting at imaginary gay victim]

CAMPBELL: She’s also a strong advocate of the gay propaganda law.

YEKATERINA ZIGUNOVA: “I fully support it. We should have no propaganda of homosexuality. It is contrary to the basic institution of family. Children can’t make decisions of their own and being kids they often dwell on things. They shape their viewpoint based on what they see in the street. If they see someone revealing signs of homosexuality in the street, their perception that there is a mum, a dad and a kid is lost. That is why I stand for this law. I fully support this law”.

CAMPBELL: “Do you worry though that you may have given unintended encouragement to some of the groups who are attacking gay people and videoing them?”

VITALY MILONOV: “Oh this is an element of propaganda, western propaganda, because believe me the real level of physical attacks towards gay people is a million times lower than violence among football fans or violence among those who have different tastes in food. It’s really funny in Russia to hear all the Western voices, guys you know reporters with the serious faces say, ‘Level.... the level of crime against homosexuals is terribly high you know’. We are looking and laughing. What are you talking about?”

CAMPBELL: But anyone can go on line to see the multiple attacks. Police have been crushing gay protests in full view of cameras. So why is Russia risking so much damage to its image abroad as the clock ticks down to the Sochi Olympics? Perhaps part of the reason can be found just walking around St Petersburg. It’s a museum of Russia’s lost greatness. This was the capital of a Tsarist empire that rivalled Europe. And it was the cradle of the Soviet Revolution that made Russia a super power. But in the 1990s, amid Western inspired reforms, the state and economy crumbled.

“Now to understand the gay propaganda issue you have to look at the other ‘p’ word - paranoia. You see it’s widely accepted that the West doesn’t want Russia to be a superpower again as it was in the Cold War. But more than that there are strong suspicions here that Western governments are actively working together to undermine Russia, to keep it weak. How does that relate to this? Well, many in the government, the church, even the media are convinced that gay rights groups, like all opposition groups, are just fronts for hostile western governments. By that theory, they’re being paid to spread gay propaganda to corrupt Russia’s children and to dilute its manhood.

VITALY MILONOV: “Russia can be a problem to some of our partners because we’re trying to be strong and we don’t.... we don’t want to allow a new world order to kill people on the streets of Syria. So poisoning of Russian society with these new standards of liberal homosexual revolution would of course make us weak”.

CAMPBELL: Polina’s group, Vixhod, has already been accused of traitorous activities. In June a court declared it to be a foreign agent and fined it fifteen thousand dollars - prosecutors claiming it was secretly funded from abroad. The finding has been overturned but Polina fears a charge of gay propaganda could wipe them out.

POLINA: “It’s a constant risk everything that we do with our organisation could be interpreted as propaganda under this silly law so.... and the fines are thirty thousand dollars. So as you can understand a fine like that we cannot sustain. If we are hit with a fine like that we would have to close and then find other ways of working”.

PROTEST CHANT: “Russia without Putin! Russia without Putin!”

CAMPBELL: The paranoia goes right to the top. Over the past two years President Putin has faced angry protests from the new middle class, demanding accountability and an end to corruption. Masha Gessen who wrote a best-selling book on Putin, insists he sees these opponents as a fifth column.

MASHA GESSEN: “In fact he’s convinced that Hillary Clinton personally is behind the protest movement and that’s why the crackdown is so much targeted against so-called foreign agents. Well LGBT people personify foreign agents better than anybody else. We’re sort of the quintessential foreign agent and that’s what this law is about”.

CAMPBELL: Stephen Fry warned the festival that Russia was sliding toward fascism.

STEPHEN FRY: [video to Queer Fest] “And to use your voice quietly, moderately, reasonably but persistently against the terrible tide of nationalism, religious zealotry and hatred that is threatening to turn this glorious mother Russia into a fascist state”.

SPEAKER AT QUEER FEST: “I hope there isn’t anybody in this room who is below 18 years of age, because if there is I will now be a criminal according to Russian law.”

CAMPBELL: At the Queer Fest dance night, the crowd is out and proud, but in contrast to Western gay groups, they’re not calling for an Olympic boycott. They’re hoping Westerners who come to Sochi might lend a hand.

POLINA: “First and foremost Olympics is going to be a unique opportunity to speak out for LGBT rights. I think that whatever happens in the West usually doesn’t get to us here. I would call on games participants to come here and to do visible things in support of LGBT people. Only this way will we have a public discussion around.... again around propaganda laws about these violations of those LGBT rights here in Russia and this is what we need as the LGBT community fighting for our rights here. So that’s the most important thing you know athletes, visitors, sponsors, come here and do something”.

CAMPBELL: Tonight, they can forget about their problems. Tomorrow they can worry about what’s coming next.