Four Dutch nationals have been questioned by police in northern Russia over alleged “gay propaganda”.The group were making a film about gay rights during a forum in Murmansk, but were later detained by police on Sunday and questioned for several hours.One of them, Kris van der Veen, a left-wing councillor from Groningen, said they were not facing a court case.Last month Russia passed a law imposing heavy fines for providing information about homosexuality to people under 18.
The law has been criticised by Western politicians and human rights groups, amid reports of rising homophobia in Russia.It is believed to be the first time the new law has been used to investigate foreigners in Russia.In a tweet on Monday, Mr Van der Veen said “after weird day, riding in car away from court. I believe indeed that there won’t be a case.”He heads the group LGBT-Groningen, which campaigns for gay rights. He spoke at an LGBT forum organised by Sergei Alekseyenko in Murmansk, which is twinned with Groningen in the north of the Netherlands.
The police examined the documentary film shot by the Dutch group. But Mr Van der Veen’s tweet suggests that the investigation has now been dropped.
“They were discussing human rights when suddenly the police and migration officers burst inside,” said Maria Kozlovskaya, a lawyer from a St Petersburg-based LGBT network, quoted by the AFP news agency.The Dutch four were fined 3,000 roubles each (£61; $93) for violating visa rules, she said.The Dutch foreign ministry, quoted by AFP, said it was “concerned about the arrests” and is “doing everything possible to provide support to the group”.Mr Alekseyenko told the BBC Russian Service that “one of the participants in the film, it emerged yesterday, turned out to be 17 years old. But when he was invited to take part he said he was 18”.
Under the new law, private individuals promoting “homosexual behaviour among minors” in Russia face fines of up to 5,000 roubles, while officials risk paying 10 times that amount. Businesses and schools could be fined up to 500,000 roubles.The European Court of Human Rights has fined Russia for banning gay pride parades in Moscow.