Russian Man Forced Into Hiding Over YouTube Video Where He Talked to Kids About Being Gay


Above: Participants in the Pride rally in Saint Petersburg, on August 12, 2017.

A Russian man has received death threats and been forced into hiding after an investigation was launched over a YouTube video he appeared in in which he answered questions from kids about his experiences as a gay man.

“It was a normal conversation about my life and they want to put me in jail,” Maxim Pankratov told CNN of the since-deleted video, which was one in a series called Real Talk, which featured children interviewing adults of diverse backgrounds.

In it, he fielded questions like, “How did you know you were gay?” and, “Are there guys who like other guys?” There was no discussion of his sex life, and the aim of the video was to “show society that you can be tolerant,” he said.

The video caught the attention of authorities in the country, where a so-called gay propaganda law prevents adults from discussing the existence of homosexuality with minors. It has been used to break up Pride marches and demonstrations, and was even invoked to investigate a children’s art show last year.

State Duma Deputy Speaker Pyotr Tolstoy called the video “ethically unacceptable and immoral” and complained to the State Investigative Committee, according to according to Coda. The Investigative Committee and the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs launched an investigation into what they called the “dissemination of destructive information,” followed by a criminal case, claiming the video was tantamount to “violent acts of a sexual nature.”

The video’s producers are also under investigation, facing 20 years in prison on felony charges, and Moscow-based human rights organization Open Russia reports parents have been pressured by police officials and child services to give testimony against them.

“I had to reach out to the parents. They are incredibly worried and are under enormous stress,” a source close to the video’s producers told Coda. “They are afraid they will lose their parental rights and even worse, be charged with a felony.”

“This case is a particularly disturbing example of authorities using Russia’s ’gay propaganda’ law as a tool for discrimination and intimidation,” said Kyle Knight with Human Rights Watch.

“The perniciousness of the ’gay propaganda’ law apparently knows no boundaries. A criminal charge of sexual assault of children for a YouTube video that contained no sexual content is as outrageous as it is terrifying.”

The Kremlin declined to comment, saying criminal investigations were not under the purview of the presidential administration.

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