What happened at the LGBT festival “Light of the East” in the Far East of Russia

On February 18, the participants of the winter LGBT festival “Light of the East” were detained by the police for several hours. The police and unknown individuals accompanying them unlawfully held and searched the participants. 

On the evening of February 18, 15 people, mostly dressed in civilian clothes, entered the auditorium where the closing ceremony of the festival was being conducted.  They demanded to have the music switched off and the lights turned on, and made all the participants stand along the wall. The intruders did not present any documents that could confirm the lawfulness of their actions, stating they were going to check everyone for drugs and see if any minors were present in the auditorium. The visitors behaved in a rude and aggressive manner.

Some of the visitors provided police officer identification documents, while others refused to say who they were. As it turned out later, there was even a journalist among them, and the participants were being detained by two GIBDD officers dressed in uniform. The visitors were reacting aggressively to objections, and were shouting.

Only a few of the intruders presented police officer identification documents - Police Lieutenant Kniazev Ivan Viktorovich, Police Captain Zaitsev Aleksei Sergeevich, Kornetskii Vasilii Valentinovich, Noskov Pavel Andreevich, Radchuk Natalia Olegovna, Meleshin Vadim Anatolevich.

The festival participants were locked up for about two hours, and were only allowed to go get their passports accompanied by one of the policemen. The police officers conducted an unlawful search of personal belongings, and searched the rooms occupied by the participants. All possible procedural rules were violated - no protocols were prepared, and no witnesses were invited. Moreover, according to one of the eye-witnesses, “they didn’t only search my personal belongings, but also those of other participants who were not present in the room at that moment. The intruders  looked into bags and lifted mattresses without asking permission, and they also searched two young men by touching them and putting their arms under their clothes. The policemen rejected all objections, saying “We don’t know anything, call our senior officers.” However, they did not give any phone numbers or say what departments they were from.  They began to release the people around midnight.

According to Kristina Solonenko, one of the festival’s organizers, “It was just scandalous, and it’s impossible to talk about respecting human rights when people are treated like cattle. We are law-abiding and conscientious citizens. It would have been enough to call me to the side, all the participants were ready to show their passports, and it would have been easy for the policemen to make sure that events of this kind have nothing to do with drugs.”

The second winter LGBT festival took place on February 17-18 at a recreational centre in the suburbs of Vladivostok. The program of the festival included various events dedicated to feminism, women’s rights and LGBT rights, different activities and games. 38 people had come from Vladivostok and Nakhodka to participate in the festival.