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Since Putin resumed the presidency following his election in 2012, conditions have notably worsened, leading some observers to declare that a pogrom against homosexuals is now underway in Russia in which homosexuals are scapegoated for the failures of the Putin administration, as the Russian economy continues to struggle and Russian influence abroad continues to wane.

Thomas Grove and Steve Gutterman of Reuters have pointed out that "[m]any Russian men like to be seen as a 'muzhik'--which literally means 'peasant' but now connotes a tough, single-minded man with conservative ideals who dominates his household. . . . Such men have been part of Putin's power base since he was first elected president in 2000."

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In 2012, laws prohibiting "homosexual propaganda" began being adopted by regional parliaments. The vague laws prohibit almost any statement or action that could be interpreted as favorable to homosexuality were first adopted in Arkhangelsk and Ryazan and St. Petersburg and then spread to the national Duma.

The adoption of such laws were a reaction to demands by gay activists, particularly in St. Petersburg and Moscow, for equal rights, and to agitation from Russia's vehemently homophobic Orthodox Church to vilify gay people.

Under St. Petersburg's law, which passed the legislature on a vote of 29 to 5, "public actions directed at the propaganda of sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality and transgenderism among minors" will be punishable with fines of up to $17,000. The law defines propaganda of homosexuality as "the targeted and uncontrolled dissemination of generally accessible information capable of harming the health and moral and spiritual development of minors," particularly that which could create "a distorted impression" of "marital relations."

Igor Kochetkov, the head of the Russian L.G.B.T. Network, a rights group based in St. Petersburg, called the premise of the law "absurd." He added, prophetically, "This is a law that can be used, and will be used, to conduct searches of organizations and prevent public actions. . . . Most importantly, it will be used for official propaganda. Officially homosexuality will be considered illegal, something incorrect and something that cannot be discussed with children. It will create a negative atmosphere in society around gays and lesbians as well as our organizations."

Although International human rights groups and Western governments had urged legislators not to pass the St. Petersburg law, the federal government quickly embraced it. In June 2013, it was passed almost unanimously in the Duma.

Emboldened by support from the highest level, anti-glbtq individuals and groups became even more brazen in their physical attacks on gay people, sometimes posting videos of their assaults on the Internet, apparently with little fear that it could land them in legal trouble.

After the savage torture, murder, and mutilation of a young man in Volvograd in May 2013, investigators stated that the crime was motivated by homophobia; nevertheless, reported Ellen Barry of the New York Times, prominent Russian glbtq rights activist Nikolai Alekseyev fears that the crime "will be investigated as one caused by a trivial row, and the homophobic motive will gradually disappear from all the documents."

Inspector Andrei Gapchenko of Volvograd acknowledged that the victim had been targeted because he was gay but described homophobic crime as unusual in his city. Actual statistics are impossible to come by, however, because, as Alekseyev stated to Grove and Gutterman, "As a rule, all these crimes are categorized as something ordinary--they argued over a bottle of vodka, or there was 'personal animosity.' The real motive of hate is not mentioned."

In addition, say activists, many crimes to unreported because victims are afraid to come forward or consider it futile to do so.

Russian activists said that the homophobic vigilantism was directly attributable to the new laws against "homosexual propaganda." Alec Luhn reported in The Guardian that "the legislation has emboldened rightwing groups who use social media to 'ambush' gay people, luring them to meetings and then humiliating them on camera--sometimes pouring urine on them. These groups often act against gay teenagers, several of whom told the Guardian that rising homophobia and vigilante activity force them to lead lives of secrecy."

Igor Kochetkov, head of the Russian LGBT network, said the new laws "have essentially legalised violence against LGBT people, because these groups of hooligans justify their actions with these laws. With this legislation, the government said that, yes, gays and lesbians are not valued as a social group."

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