HRC Blog

Gay Protester Detained in Russia Ahead of the Winter Olympics

Post submitted by Limor Finkel, Former HRC Global Engagement Program Coordinator

Pavel Lebedev, a gay man living some few hundred miles from the Olympic city of Sochi, was arrested and detained for unfurling a rainbow flag during the Olympic torch relay in his hometown of Voronezh.

This is just one incident of many demonstrating a government-sponsored crackdown on freedom of expression. The simple act of brandishing a symbol of LGBT rights and equality—the rainbow flag—may now be considered illegal under Russia’s new anti-propaganda ban. 

Friends posted photos of Lebedev opening the flag and then being wrestled to the frosty ground and detained by Olympic security personnel. The Associated Press was able to reach Lebedev by phone and, as of January 18, he was still in police custody undergoing questioning.

This violent and reactive event comes just days after President Vladimir Putin boldly announced that gays and lesbians are not discriminated against in Russia and that the anti-propaganda law is directed at protecting children.

To learn more about HRC's work to bring equality to LGBT Russians, visit

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