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Russia: Activist Risks Acquittal Being Overturned

Yulia Tsvetkova, an artist and stage director from Komsomolsk-on-Amur (Russian Far East) is facing prosecution and harassment for defending women’s and LGBTI rights (c) private
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Yulia Tsvetkova, an artist and stage director from Komsomolsk-on-Amur (Russian Far East), was arbitrarily detained on 20 November 2019 and put under house arrest two days later after being accused of “production and dissemination of pornographic materials” (Article 242(3b) of the Russian Criminal Code). These absurd charges were brought against her in connection with her artistic drawings of women’s bodies, as part of her campaigning for women’s rights. 

On the day of her detention, searches were carried out in her apartment and in the children's educational club where she had worked previously. The police seized her electronic devices, documents, and brochures on gender issues. Yulia Tsvetkova recalled that during the search the police officers stated that she was a “lesbian, sex trainer and propagandist leader”. The authorities also decided to block her online group Vagina Monologues, a decision that Yulia Tsvetkova has challenged legally. Yulia Tsvetkova has been the target of an overtly homophobic campaign since March 2019, when she had to end her cooperation with the youth amateur theatre company Merak after the police had launched an investigation into her alleged “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors” on account of her anti-bullying and anti-discrimination play “Blue and Pink”. Also, the theatrical group she had founded in 2018 was forced to cease its activities. 

On 11 December 2019, Yulia Tsvetkova was found guilty under Article 6.21 of the Code of Administrative Offences (“propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors”) and fined 50,000 Rubles (US$ 780) for being the administrator of two LGBTI-themed online communities on the popular Russian social media, VKontakte. Both online communities were marked “18+”, as required by Russian law, making the fine imposed on her unfounded even under the homophobic Russian “gay propaganda” legislation (this “offence” only arises if the “propaganda” material is targeted at persons under 18). 

On 17 January 2020, Yulia Tsvetkova informed the media that an administrative proceeding had been opened against her once again, under the same Article 6.21 of the Code of Administrative Offences, this time for posting her drawing “Family is where love is. Support LGBT+ families” (depicting two same-sex couples with children) on social media. She had published the drawing in support of a same-sex couple who had had to flee Russia with their adopted children because the authorities had threatened to take their children away from them. On 10 July 2020 she was fined 75 000 Rubles (US$ 1,050) for this “offence”. 

During 2020, the criminal case against Yulia Tsvetkova was referred back and forth between the investigator and the prosecutor five times. Her trial finally started in January 2021. 

On 15 July, the trial finally ended and the court acquitted Yulia Tsvetkova. Unfortunately, the prosecution appealed the verdict on 22 July. If the appeal is rejected, her acquittal verdict will stand, but if the appeal is granted, the case will be sent to the first instance and the trial will start again. Meanwhile, the authorities repeatedly blocked her online group Vagina’s Monologues, where she had posted the drawings that led to the criminal proceedings under the “pornography” charges against her. On 3 June the Russian Ministry of Justice designated Yulia Tsvetkova a “foreign agent” which is a toxic label introduced in law to smear prominent civil society organizations and individuals and compel them to follow onerous and humiliating requirements or face severe penalties including imprisonment.


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