December 4, 2013 at 9:55 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Threats force Russian LGBT activist to cancel trip to D.C.

Taras Karasiichuk, Gay Alliance Ukraine, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Republican Party, Florida, United States House of Representatives, Ana Rekhviashvili, Georgia, Identoba, gay rights, gay news, Washington Blade, Russia, Vladimir Putin, Igor Kochetkov, Sphere

Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (left) meets with Igor Kochetkov of the Russian LGBT Network and other advocates from Ukraine and Georgia in D.C. on Sept. 18. (Photo courtesy of Alex Cruz)

A Russian LGBT rights activist said threats to his organization forced him to cancel his scheduled appearance at a D.C. human rights summit.

Russian LGBT Network Chair Igor Kochetkov had been scheduled to take part in Human Rights First’s annual Human Rights Summit that began at the Newseum on Wednesday.

“I am very sorry that I cannot be with you,” Kochetkov said in a statement Human Rights First provided to the Washington Blade. “The current situation around LGBT organizations is seriously complicated, with attacks on activists and ordinary members of the LGBT community.”

Kochetkov said the Russian LGBT Network “regularly” receives threats from those he described as right-wing extremists. He noted in his statement that his organization recently learned about “planned provocations on the part of right-wing radicals against” it.

Kochetkov did not specify the type of threats he said the Russian LGBT Network received.

“We have to take these threats very seriously, so I had to stay in Russia for an urgent response to possible incident,” he said.

Sarah Mendelson of USAID’s Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Human Assistance said on Wednesday at the start of one of the two panels in which Kochetkov was to have participated that he cancelled his appearance because he “felt the threats to his organization are too acute right now.”

“It is with deep regret that we don’t have our colleague,” Mendelson said.

Kochetkov is among the nine Russian human rights advocates with whom President Obama met in September during the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg. Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen a few weeks later also met with Kochetkov and two other LGBT rights advocates from the Ukraine and Georgia on Capitol Hill.

The Russian LGBT Network is among the groups that continue to criticize the Kremlin over its gay rights record that includes a broadly worded ban on gay propaganda to minors. A 2012 law requires organizations that receive funding from outside Russia to register as a “foreign agent.”

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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