I have been taking part in LGBT rights events since 2010 in Saint Petersburg and in Moscow, but I have never been attacked like I was in Voronezh. When hundreds of people take to the streets with nationalist and Orthodox slogans in a large crowd, they start behaving like animals.
I was hit by some people. I had barely arrived; I had just seen them greeting each other with Nazi salutes. I took out my placard that read “Stop hatred” and was immediately punched to the ground. Then, someone started kicking me in the head and the neck, before running away. I was then brought to a police car, which took me away from the protest. I only saw the others activists get beat up on video footage. No one was grievously hurt, but three of us had large bruises and open wounds.
“The police will never protect us”
After the protest, I received hundreds of threats on social networks: “Die, you dirty whore. If you try again, I will burn you alive”; “you will not find a single safe place for you on Russian soil”; “get out of here, you fag, if I see you I will break your teeth,” and so on. My picture and contact information are circulating online. As a result, I no longer leave my house by myself; I always call a cab. I am desperate. Can you imagine how desperate I must be when I choose to go to a protest though I know I might very well be killed?
The police will never protect us; I am under no illusions on that front. The Voronezh police reported that there had not been any violence during the protest, and they received thank you letters from our attackers for not intervening!
But I will keep on fighting. With help from human rights activists, we have filed a complaint with the Interior Ministry and the city of Voronezh. I have also been contacted by a nonprofit, Front Line Defenders, which is preparing appeals to the Russian government, the Council of Europe, and the United Nations.