The head of a Russian NGO with ties to a regional government has triggered a firestorm with a homophobic rant that enthusiastically supported the massacre of 49 people at a gay nightclub in Florida -- and regretted that dozens of the wounded "didn't croak."
Ramil Ibragimov, head of the Union of Young Innovation Leaders, praised gunman Omar Mateen in an Instagram post the day after the June 12 attack on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. It was the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.
Ibragimov, whose tech-oriented group is based in the mainly Muslim region of Tatarstan in central Russia, referenced Mateen's Afghan heritage in the post, which has since been deleted. Mateen had also pledged allegiance to the extremist Islamic State group,
"Some right-minded Afghan kid f*****g shot 50 f****ts at a gay club in Orlando (USA)," Ibragimov wrote, using an expletive and an obscene pejorative for gay men. "Another 53 are in the hospital. It's a shame they didn't croak. We really hope that they all kick the bucket."
The group was founded in 2014, and the regional government identified Ayrat Khayrullin, then an aide to Tatarstan's President Rustam Minnikhanov and currently the head of a local municipality, as the organization's "supervisor."
Ibragimov had previously snapped a selfie together with Russia's tech-loving prime minister and ex-president, Dmitry Medvedev.
Outrage over the post surged quickly through Russian-language social-media sites, with users denouncing Ibragimov and others calling on the United States to ban him from obtaining a U.S. visa.
"It's terrible what goes through some people's heads," opposition leader Aleksei Navalny wrote on Twitter.
In a June 14 post on Facebook, Navalny called Ibragimov a "cannibal" and said "public and deliberate homophobia" has become the crucial pillar of conservatism under Russian President Vladimir Putin's government.
Rights groups and Western governments have denounced what they call an orchestrated effort by the Kremlin to restrict the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals. In 2013 President Vladimir Putin signed into a law a controversial measure that bans spreading "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations" among minors.
Putin has rejected Western denunciations, saying the "propaganda" law is aimed at protecting children but does not infringe on LGBT rights.
Popular blogger Rustam Adagamov noted in a Facebook post that numerous Russians in recent years have been jailed for social-media shares, likes, and comments under extremism laws, including for material critical of the government and organized religion.
Noting Ibragimov's public appearances with Medvedev and Minnikhanov, Adagamov wrote, "Some get put in prison for two social-media likes, while a dirt bag like this will keep building his career."
The Kremlin weighed in on Ibragimov's comments on June 14. Dmitry Peskov, Putin's longtime spokesman, told reporters he did not know Ibragimov and had not read the controversial post but that "such thoughts, of course, are unacceptable."
Officials in Tatarstan, meanwhile, also distanced themselves from Ibragimov. A spokesman for Minnikhanov said regional authorities "condemn and consider unacceptable any statements and actions justifying violence."
Regional prosecutors said on June 14 that they had opened a criminal probe into Ibragimov's Instagram post. In a statement, prosecutors did not detail what laws he may have broken, though Russian law bans the dissemination of hate speech online.
In an interview with the website Business-Gazeta.ru, Ibragimov attributed the post to his "hot-blooded" nature and that fact that doesn't like "all of this f***y stuff."
"I don't particularly like the United States either," he was quoted as saying.