Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Power Vertical

Podcast: Backlash -- Russia's LGBT Battle Goes Global

Protesting homophobia in Russia on two continents: an LGBT rights protester in Moscow (left) and one in New York.
Protesting homophobia in Russia on two continents: an LGBT rights protester in Moscow (left) and one in New York.
It started as part of Vladimir Putin's efforts to shore up support among traditionalist Russians after losing the urban middle class. But Russia's laws marginalizing gays and lesbians and an ensuing string of violent homophobic attacks have turned into a major international headache for the Kremlin -- sparking everything from vodka boycotts to calls to strip Sochi of the 2014 Winter Olympics.

On the latest "Power Vertical Podcast," I discuss the issue of LGBT rights and how it is driving yet another wedge between Russia and the West.

Joining me are co-hosts Kirill Kobrin of RFE/RL's Russian Service and Sean Guillory of the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Russian and Eastern European Studies.

Power Vertical Podcast: Russia's LGBT Battle Goes Global
Power Vertical Podcast: Russia's LGBT Battle Goes Globali
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Tags: Power Vertical podcast,LGBT rights

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Comment Sorting
by: Chaim from: BC
August 09, 2013 20:30
GIve it a rest people. Facts are that not everyone agrees with the GLTB claims and propaganda. Russia is protecting the traditional values of family and marriage that have built civilization as we now have it.
In Response

by: Tim from: Atlanta
August 11, 2013 18:01
Yes, and we see how well Russian society is doing Chaim!
In Response

by: Johnny from: CA
August 11, 2013 18:10
Facts are that bigots are now in the minority and have no further pull in society against gay people, unless it is in a country run by a dictator.
Your "traditional marriage" and "traditional families" are gone.
Live and embrace those facts.
In Response

by: Kgrl from: US
August 11, 2013 19:58
Give it a rest? Rhetoric that spouts traditional family values is threatened should be put to rest. Honestly, someones sexual preference is not powerful enough to bring down civilization nor is it affecting your right to hate. Unless you are aware of some magic power that the rest of the world is not? Try something scientific or even an original thought rather than repeating the same old words. I thought we proved the earth was round since then?
In Response

by: you don't know from: Terre Haute IN
August 11, 2013 23:57
First of all.. Gays brought you the modern way of living.. Our form of democracy was molded from Greek and Roman times. Aristotle was a gay man among many others. You don't know what your talking about. Traditional? Please you must be kidding me right? Our culture had done a vast amount of good it takes all kinds.. And for you to think we are going to set idly by and let people put us in closet or worse your a moron and don't deserve to be put in the human category.
In Response

by: G. J. from: TX
August 13, 2013 23:04
Funny you should mention the very societies that were destroyed by the decadence you declare as good. You might want to add Sodom And Gomorah to the pile as well. Although, I don't agree with their politics the Russian morality is in tune with procreation. Get a clue, the concentric Elite that push Gays to be the Stoic Society just want you to stop procreating. Eventually they will have their 500 million Earth Inhabitants because you will all die off with out Issue.
In Response

by: Derp
August 12, 2013 00:12
Except gays in Russia are being killed and beaten by these "traditionalists". So no, we won't 'give it a rest'.
In Response

by: Michael
August 12, 2013 00:56
So rude that you won't even bother to put the letters in the correct order, Chaim? What you call "traditional values" is in reality a move to actually harm human beings. "Traditional values" are love, respect, compassion, altruism, etc. None of those have any limitations in regards to sexuality. What you call the structure of civilization is actually only the formula for making babies. Guess what? Making babies isn't the only requirement of a civilization, and homosexuality occurs in nature all over the place--not merely in the human species. It has never devastated a species because it's a minority of the population. Plus, heterosexuality isn't required to have babies. Not even love is required for babies. People DO need to be in love for long lasting interpersonal relationships--you know, the core of a successful civilization. This debate isn't about breeding, but thanks for informing others about your simplicity. I love how only homophobes "make everything about sex" in this ongoing debate.
In Response

by: Moi from: toronto
August 12, 2013 03:54
What an unfortunate observation this is. Do you realize that gay people are being harrassed, imprisoned, beaten and killed - often by the authorities who are supposed to protect them. If you want to protect tradition, practice it yourself - don't force it onto other people. People have every reason to be outraged by this stupidity and ignorance!

by: American Troll
August 10, 2013 06:34
Russia doesn't tolerate gays, hence Russia's world-renowned 1,079% annual population growth rate and lack of debt. The American government forces mandatory gay marriages, and so the last few thousand of us left alive in 2030 will gratefully convert to Russian Orthodox Christianity and relocate to the Taymyr Peninsula, candles in hand. Also, the budget overruns on gay weddings have put America deeply into debt, but Russia proudly has no debt. You can't accumulate debt if no one is willing to lend you anything in the first place.

Ultimately, the West is doomed because a nation of chess-players thinks ten steps ahead. Like how Muscovites allow millions of Muslim migrant workers to build a total of four mosques, then wallow in panic and rage on schedule every year when Muslims literally fill the streets during Eid. As George W. Bush so eloquently said, "Strategery."
In Response

by: Jimmy from: Maryland
August 11, 2013 18:59
I had not heard America was forcing its population into gay marriages. I thought we were just starting to let those who wanted them have them. Very different from the "mandatory gay marriages" you are suggesting TROLL.
In Response

by: orazor1324
August 14, 2013 05:25
irony much?
In Response

by: Alex
August 11, 2013 21:03
I was going to point out how stupid you are, but then I saw the name you commented as.

by: john from: canada
August 10, 2013 15:00
Great podcast! Russian Duma's homophobia appears to accurately reflect homophobia of Russian society, at least according to Pew homophobia survey (link below).

Guillory's point that Russian homophobia may be related to anti-Western political strategies is interesting. Putin macho theory is interesting, and I'd add the prevalence of Western-linked Russian marriage businesses that suggest Russian women prefer Western men to Russian men. This emasculates insecure Russian heterosexuals and so they strike out against the vulnerable LGBT community, equating gays with pedophiles.

Obama correct that while Russia is not as horrifically homo-phobic as in most of Africa, Russia is significantly more homophobic then Europe, North America or Latin America (cf Pew).

Combination of emerging Western policies, active LGBT groups with media access (ie, Pink news link below), and depth of gay-friendly societies, creates new challenge for Russia.

By the way, Elton John tour coming to Moscow on 6 December...

by: Erica Cook
August 11, 2013 22:05
He said Puten is not the new Hitler. Yes he is.

by: Ben
August 12, 2013 17:10
"...laws marginalizing gays" - this lie is evident because for instance the law of the American army: "don`t ask - don't tell.." about gays is absolutely eaqual to the propaganda prohibition.This law was abolished in America recently without author`s hysterics.

by: Michael from: Bellingham WA
August 13, 2013 23:14
Most Americans have a naive belief that Russia wanted Olympic Games for the same reason other countries do -- promotion of the country, its people and culture, PR opportunity, etc. Proud Russian sitizens probably did, but in reality, Olympic Games in Russia is just another mechanism for a few well connected individuals to embezzle the country and international funds allocated for the event. After the spectacular theft of Russian taxpayers money for establishing the National Nano-Technology Park (whatever the name it had), an equivalent to the Silicon Valley in the Bay Area, Olympic Games presented great opportunity. The country has already spent (wasted) incrdible amount of money, well above of any logical expense for any particular engineering project. For instance, the new road from the airport in Adler to Krasnaya Polyana, the competition site (41 km or 25 miles long), cost by some reports over USD 8,000,000,000, just meager USD 320,000,000 per km. So, some Russians have already got Olympic Gold, and a lot of it. As far as they are concerned, the Games can be cancelled anytime. who cares?

by: ManchurianDevil from: Atlanta, Georgia
August 14, 2013 00:52
One further point to note about Russia's 'anti-gay' law is that it doesn't criminalize homosexuality itself but only bans so-called non-traditional-relationship propaganda directed toward minors. In other words, the law is an additional pretext for censoring any public speech that can be construed as 'non-traditional-relationship propaganda' even if the speech doesn't call for the normalization of homosexuality in Russia. Such speech can include candid discussions of AIDS or any other issue that can be construed as outside the bounds of traditional family relationships. Since Kirill Kobrinin noted that the 'gay agenda' in Russia is a threat entirely fabricated by the Kremlin, this law against 'propaganda' is really just a pretext to further censor public speech in general.

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
August 14, 2013 07:57
Why am I blocked from this topic?
Is the issue of perverting all World by the West so important?
While Russian "War of Salamandras" grab non-Russian lands,
breed in non-Russian houses the ethnic Russians and alike,
Is it USA and West, enslaving about hundred millions statutory
raped once children and youngsters to pervert them, moving
it as their own "War of Salamandras" on the East?
Isn't why you blocking me out?

by: Jimbeau from: Washington, DC
August 14, 2013 14:00
Throughout this forum and in most of the published matter concerning this issue, there has been literally no mention of the major part the Russian Orthodox Church plays in fomenting the violence and anti-gay sentiment that Putin and the members of the Duma are now legislating. How easy it has been for the Church to slip into the position, at least publicly, that it had under the tsar. It's own freedom depends upon the whim of the sovereign and it in turn, panders the Church's own doctrine to shore-up it's popular image. Sochi must be the stage for LGBT athletes from around the world to add fuel to this small blaze of justice.

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17:49 October 24, 2014


From RFE/RL's News Desk:


Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the United States of escalating conflicts around the world by imposing what he called a "unilateral diktat."

Putin made the remarks in a combative speech to political experts at the Valdai International Discussion Club, in Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Putin said the United States has been "fighting against the results of its own policy" in Iraq, Libya and Syria.

He said risks of serious conflicts involving major countries have risen, as well as risks of arms treaties being violated.

He also dismissed international sanctions over Russia's actions in Ukraine as a "mistake," saying they aimed at pushing Russia into isolation and would end up "hurting everyone."

We did not start this," he added, referring to rising tensions between Russia and the West.

(Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, Interfax, TASS)


German Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged Russian President Vladimir Putin in a telephone call to push for a quick resolution of the ongoing gas dispute with Ukraine as winter looms.

The call by Merkel to Putin on October 24 comes as representatives of the EU, Russia, and Ukraine are due to meet again next week in EU brokered talks aimed at solving the gas dispute between Kyiv and Moscow.

Merkel also underlined that upcoming elections in areas of eastern Ukraine controlled by Russian-backed separatists must respect Ukrainian national law.

Pro-Russian insurgent leaders are boycotting a parliamentary snap poll on October 26 in Ukraine and are holding their own election in the Lugansk and Donetsk regions, home to nearly three million people, on the same day instead.

(Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters)



The United Nations says the conflict in Ukraine has forced more than 800,000 people from their homes.

Around 95 percent of displaced people come from eastern Ukraine, where government troops have been battling pro-Russian separatists.

UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, told a briefing in Geneva that an estimated 430,000 people were currently displaced within Ukraine -- 170,000 more than at the start of September.

It said at least 387,000 other people have asked for refugee status, temporary asylum, or other forms of residency permits in Russia.

Another 6,600 have applied for asylum in the European Union and 581 in Belarus.

The agency said it was "racing to help some of the most vulnerable displaced people" as winter approaches.

It also said the number of displaced people is expected to rise further due to ongoing fighting in eastern Ukraine.


Three alleged militants have been killed by security forces in Russia's volatile North Caucasus region.

Russia's National Antiterrorism Committee says that two suspects were killed in the village of Charoda in Daghestan on October 24 after they refused to leave an apartment and opened fire at police and security troops.

One police officer was wounded.

Also on October 24, police in another North Caucasus region, Kabardino-Balkaria, killed a suspected militant after he refused to identify himself, threw a grenade towards police, and opened fire with a pistol.

A police officer was wounded in that incident.

Violence is common in Russia's North Caucasus region, which includes the restive republics of Daghestan, Kabardino-Balkaria, Ingushetia, and Chechnya.

Islamic militants and criminal groups routinely target Russian military personnel and local officials.

(Based on reporting by Interfax and TASS)


A lawyer, who represented an alleged victim of the notorious Orekhovo criminal group in Moscow, has been assassinated.

Police in the Russian capital say that Vitaly Moiseyev and his wife were found dead with gunshot wounds in a car near Moscow on October 24.

Moiseyev was representing Sergei Zhurba, an alleged victim of the Orekhovo gang and a key witness in a case against one of the gang's leaders Dmitry Belkin.

Belkin was sentenced to life in prison on October 23 for multiple murders and extortion.

Last month, another of Zhurba's lawyers, Tatyana Akimtseva (eds: a woman), was shot dead by unknown individuals.

The Orekhovo group was one of the most powerful crime gangs of the Moscow region and in Russia in the 1990s. Its members are believed to be responsible for dozens of murders.

(Based on reporting by TASS and Interfax)

17:27 October 24, 2014


17:26 October 24, 2014


17:00 October 24, 2014
08:29 October 24, 2014


From RFE/RL's News Desk:


Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk is warning that Russia could attempt to disrupt Ukraine's parliamentary elections scheduled for October 26.

Yatsenyuk told a meeting of top security officials and election monitors on October 23 that "It is absolutely clear that attempts to destabilize the situation will continue and will be provoked by Russia."

Yatsenyuk said "we are in a state of Russian aggression and we have before us one more challenge -- to hold parliamentary elections."

The prime minister said Ukraine needs the "full mobilization of the entire law-enforcement system to prevent violations of the election process and attempts at terrorist acts during the elections."

Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said authorities have ordered some 82,000 policemen on duty for election day.

He said 4,000 members of a special reaction force would be among those maintaining order during polling hours and would be concentrated in "those precincts where there is a risk of some terrorist acts or aggressive actions by some...candidates."

The warning by Yatsenyuk comes on the heels of three violent attacks on parliamentary candidates in the past week.

The latest, against Volodymyr Borysenko, a member of Yatsenyuk's People's Front Party, occurred on October 20 when Borysenko was shot at and had an explosive thrown at him.

He allegedly survived the attack only because he was wearing body armor due to numerous death threats he had recently received.

Elections to the Verkhovna Rada, the parliament, will be held despite continued fighting in the eastern part of the country between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists.

Voting will not take place in 14 districts of eastern Ukraine currently under the control of the separatists.

Those separatist-held areas -- in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions -- are planning on holding their own elections in November.

Additionally, Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea in March means the loss of 12 seats from the 450-seat parliament.

Polls show President Petro Poroshenko's party leading with some 30 percent of respondents saying they would cast their vote for the Petro Poroshenko Bloc.

It that percentage holds on election day it would mean Poroshenko's bloc would have to form a coalition government, likely with nationalist groups who oppose conducting peace talks over fighting in the east.

(Based on reporting by Reuters and Interfax)



Moscow has denied claims of an incursion by a Russian military plane into Estonia's airspace.

A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman told Interfax news agency on October 23 that the Ilyushin-20 took off from Khrabrovo airfield in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad on October 21.

The spokesman said the reconnaissance plane flew "over neutral waters of the Baltic Sea" while on a training flight.

On October 22, Estonia’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Russian ambassador in Tallinn, Yury Merzlakov, after the Estonian military said the Russian plane had entered its air space.

In a statement, NATO said the Ilyushin-20 was first intercepted by Danish jets when it approached Denmark, before flying toward non-NATO member Sweden.

Intercepted by Swedish planes, the alliance said the Ilyushin entered Estonian airspace for “less than one minute” and was escorted out by Portuguese jets.

NATO has stepped up its Baltic air patrols and Moscow has been accused of several recent border violations in the region amid heightened tensions between Russia and the West over the Ukraine conflict.

Last month, Estonia accused Russia of abducting one of its police officers on the border.

Russia claims Eston Kohver was seized inside Russia on September 5, while Estonian officials say he was captured at gunpoint in Estonia near the border and taken to Russia.

The European Union and United States have called for the immediate release of the Estonian security official, who is facing espionage charges in Russia.

Meanwhile, the Swedish Navy has been searching for a suspected submarine sighted six days ago some 50 kilometers from the capital, Stockholm, although it said on October 22 it was pulling back some of its ships.

Swedish officials have not linked any particular country to the suspected intrusion and Moscow has denied involvement.

(With reporting by Interfax, TASS, and the BBC)


A Moscow court postponed to next week a ruling on a move to take control of Bashneft, an oil company from tycoon Vladimir Yevtushenkov.

The judge said on October 23 that the next hearing will take place on October 30 after the prosecution requested more time to prepare its case.

Prosecutors filed the suit in September to regain state ownership of Bashneft, citing alleged violations in the privatization and subsequent sale of the company to AFK Sistema investment group.

Yevtushenkov, the main shareholder of the conglomerate, is under house arrest on suspicion of money laundering during the firm's acquisition in 2009.

Yevtushenkov, 66, was arrested on September 16.

He is ranked Russia's 15th richest man by U.S. magazine Forbes, with an estimated fortune of $9 billion.

(Based on reporting by Reuters and TASS)

11:11 October 23, 2014


According to a report in the pro-Kremlin daily "Izvestia," deputy Kremlin chief of staff Vyacheslav Volodin told a meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club in Sochi that Western politicians "do not understand the essence of Russia."

"Volodin stated the key thesis about the current state of our country: As long as there is Putin there is Russia. If there is no Putin, there is no Russia," Konstantin Kostin, head of the Foundation for the Development of Civil Society, told "Izvestia."

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The Power Vertical is a blog written especially for Russia wonks and obsessive Kremlin watchers by Brian Whitmore. It covers emerging and developing trends in Russian politics, shining a spotlight on the high-stakes power struggles, machinations, and clashing interests that shape Kremlin policy today. Check out The Power Vertical Facebook page or