Imma Battaglia of the Gay Project, an Italian LGBT advocacy group, told the Washington Blade that four police officers took Vladimir Luxuria and two members of the television crew who were with her into custody as they tried to enter the an arena where a semifinal match between the Canadian and Swiss women’s hockey teams was about to take place.
Initial reports indicate officers asked Luxuria, who was wearing a rainbow suit, not to show a rainbow flag with “being gay is ok” written onto it. Luca Possenti of Famiglie Arcobaleno, a group that advocates on behalf of Italian LGBT parents and those who want to have children, told the Blade that officers arrested Luxuria after she began shouting the slogan in front of cameras.
Battaglia, who has spoken with Luxuria several times since she arrived in Sochi, told the Blade authorities took “them away” in separate cars to an unknown location.
This reported incident took place less than 24 hours after Luxuria said she was arrested in Sochi after she unfurled a rainbow flag that said “gay is ok” in Russian.
Battaglia told the Blade that authorities released Luxuria late last night after Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino intervened. The Associated Press reported Luxuria visited a gay bar in Sochi after her release.
The 2014 Winter Olympics Organizing Committee earlier on Monday referred the Blade to the aforementioned AP story in which police officials denied Luxuria’s claims she was arrested. Spokesperson Alexandra Kosterina stressed the same point during a Sochi press briefing.
“We’ve talked to police and they have told us there is no record whatsoever to any detention or arrest,” said Kosterina as the AP reported.
The two reported incidents took place less than two weeks after authorities in Moscow and St. Petersburg took 14 LGBT rights advocates into custody hours before the games officially opened.
Elena Kostynchenko told the Blade during a Feb. 8 interview that officers took her and nine other activists into custody after they sang the Russian national anthem near Moscow’s Red Square while holding Russian and rainbow flags. Kostynchenko said authorities threatened to sexually assault her and beat and choked two other activists before they released them.
Putin said during an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos last month those who protest his government’s LGBT rights record during the Olympics would not face prosecution under his country’s controversial law that bans gay propaganda to minors. The International Olympic Committee repeatedly said before the games it has received assurances from the Kremlin that gays and lesbians will not suffer discrimination while in Sochi.
“Vladimir is fighting against the Putin anti-gay law,” Battaglia told the Blade on Monday after reports the police had arrested Luxuria for a second time began to emerge. “She doesn’t want to accept to eliminate the rainbow flag from her dress.”
Luxuria spoke to La Repubblica, an Italian newspaper, after she said authorities released her.
“If tomorrow I don’t have the opportunity to have a flag with written it’s okay to be gay, I will shout it,” she said.
Luxuria served in the lower house of the Italian Parliament from 2006-2008 as a member of the Communist Refoundation Party.
The Blade will have further details as they become available.