November 18, 2013 at 5:29 pm EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Gunmen open fire at Moscow gay nightclub
Central Station, gay club, Russia, Moscow, gay news, Washington Blade

Two men with guns tried to gain entry into Central Station, a gay club in Moscow early on Nov. 16, 2013. (Photo courtesy of Sattarov Karimjon)

Two men early on Nov. 16 opened fire on a gay club in the Russian capital after security personnel refused to allow them to enter.

Arkady Gyngazov, who was managing Central Station in Moscow during the incident, told the Washington Blade during a Skype interview from the Russian capital on Monday the men tried to enter the club around 5 a.m., but were turned away because they were “aggressive.” He said they returned with guns a short time later and started shooting.

Gyngazov told the Blade he was not at the club when the shooting happened, but he estimated 500 people were inside during the incident.

He said the men destroyed Central Station’s surveillance camera and left bullet holes on the building’s facade. Gyngazov told the Blade nobody was injured because patrons were not arriving or exiting the establishment during the incident.

“That’s why they didn’t kill anybody,” Gyngazov told the Blade.

The incident took place a week after gay MSNBC host Thomas Roberts co-hosted the annual Miss Universe pageant that took place in Moscow. The shooting also occurred against the backdrop of ongoing outrage over the Kremlin’s LGBT rights record that threatens to overshadow the 2014 Winter Olympics that will take place in Sochi, Russia, in February.

President Vladimir Putin in June signed a vaguely worded law that bans gay propaganda to minors. A second statute that prohibits foreign same-sex couples and any couple from a country in which gays and lesbians can legally marry from adopting Russian children took effect in July.

A 2012 law requires LGBT groups and non-governmental organizations that receive funding from outside Russia to register as a “foreign agent.”

Activists maintain the widely publicized deaths of two men in Volgograd and on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia’s Far East earlier this year underscore the fact that anti-LGBT violence remains a pervasive problem in the country.

Members of the Russian HIV/AIDS service organization LaSky earlier this month were attacked with air guns and baseball bats during an event at the group’s St. Petersburg office. The two men who attacked Dutch diplomat Onno Elderenbosch inside his Moscow apartment on Oct. 15 drew a heart with an arrow through it and the LGBT acronym in lipstick on a mirror in his home.

LGBT activists and their opponents clashed in St. Petersburg during an Oct. 12 gay rights rally. The city’s police in June arrested more 40 LGBT rights advocates during a similar event.

Authorities in May arrested 30 gay activists who tried to stage a Pride celebration outside Moscow City Hall. Officials in Murmansk nearly two months later detained Kris van der Veen and three other Dutch LGBT rights advocates for violating the country’s gay propaganda law while they were filming a documentary on Russian gay life.

‘Gay club here’ sign placed above Central Station

Gyngazov did not confirm media reports that indicate a Kremlin-controlled railroad company owns the building in which Central Station is located. He said its owners last month placed a large neon sign above the club’s entrance that reads “gay club here” and contains arrows pointing toward the door.

“I’m sure [the attack] is connected to the situation here in Russia with gays and with the advertisement that the owners of the building put in big letters on the building,” Gyngazov told the Blade. “It’s not allowed in Russia because of the law and the aggressive people, homophobes. They have to know that it’s a gay club and it’s dangerous for our clients.”

Gyngazov said patrons have been attacked outside Central Station since he began working at the club in 2010, but nobody had previously opened fire on the building. He told the Blade the police promised to investigate the shooting.

“I’m not sure because when it’s about gays, usually they don’t want to do anything,” Gyngazov said. “Police doesn’t work here, especially if you’re [gay.]”

Gyngazov said he quit his job after the shooting because he is afraid.

“I decided to leave it because it’s getting more dangerous,” Gyngazov told the Blade.

The Associated Press on Monday reported Russia’s sports minister, Vitaly Mutko, told the Russian newspaper RBK that lawmakers should have waited until after the Olympics to pass the country’s gay propaganda law. This statement comes on the heels of reassurances from Putin that gays and lesbians will not experience discrimination during the games, even though Mutko and other Russian officials said authorities plan to enforce the gay propaganda law in Sochi.

Gyngazov, who volunteers for Spectrum Human Rights, which monitors the Kremlin’s gay rights record, became visibly scared as he discussed the future of LGBT Russians after the Sochi games.

“It’s getting scarier each day,” he said.

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

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