Rights activists say two Russian men whose marriage in Denmark was indirectly acknowledged by Russian authorities have fled the country, citing a "real threat" to their liberty and security.
Pavel Stotsko and Yevgeny Voitsekhovsky left Russia after police declared their passports invalid and opened an administrative case against them for "intentionally defacing an official document," the Russian rights group LGBT-Network said on January 29.
It was not clear where the couple traveled to.
LGBT-Network head Igor Kochetkov said police had told Stotsko and Voitsekhovensky they would not be protected from possible attacks by homophobic vigilantes.
Stotsko and Voitsekhovsky were married in Copenhagen on January 4. When they returned to Moscow last week, they presented their passports to police for confirmation of the marriage under provisions of Russian law that regulate the recognition of foreign marriages.
Although Russia does not recognize same-sex marriages and sexual minorities regularly face discrimination and persecution there, a police official stamped the passports.
An Interior Ministry spokeswoman said on January 28 that the official who stamped the passports and her immediate supervisor had been dismissed, and that the investigation into the matter remained open.
LGBT-Network reported that police had blocked the entrance to Stotsko's and Voitsekhovsky's apartment on January 28.
The group said police were preventing friends from entering and the two men from leaving in an effort to recover their passports. In addition, electricity and Internet access were blocked for several hours, LGBT-Network said.
Stotsko rejected the charge that he had defaced his passport. "Our passports were stamped by officials who had every right to stamp them under federal law," he told a Moscow radio station on January 28.
The two men reportedly turned in their passports on January 29 on the advice of their lawyers and were immediately issued replacement passports.