December 14, 2016 at 10:12 am EST | by Michael K. Lavers
LGBT Russians have mixed reaction to Tillerson nomination

Kremlin, gay news, Washington Blade

LGBT Russians with whom the Washington Blade spoke this week had a mixed reaction to President-elect Trump’s nomination of ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as secretary of state. (Photo by Victorgrigas; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

LGBT Russians with whom the Washington Blade spoke this week had a mixed reaction to President-elect Trump’s nomination of ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as secretary of state.

Kirill Sabir, chair of the FtM Phoenix Group, which advocates on behalf of transsexual Russians around Moscow, noted to the Blade in an email on Tuesday that Tillerson received the country’s Order of Friendship from President Vladimir Putin in 2013.

Sabir said Tillerson “seems to be a very good, worthy candidate to further efforts towards improving relations between the U.S. and Russia.” Sabir suggested to the Blade earlier this year a Trump presidency would bolster the relationship between Moscow and Washington that has been tense during the Obama administration.

“I wish him good luck with gaining enough support and understanding in his homeland,” said Sabir, referring to Tillerson.

Tillerson in 2011 signed a $300 billion deal with Rosneft, a state-owned oil company, that would allow ExxonMobil to drill in the Arctic Ocean. The sanctions the Obama administration imposed against Russia in 2014 over its annexation of Crimea and other interventions in Ukraine derailed the project.

Putin in 2013 signed a controversial law that bans the promotion of so-called gay propaganda to minors in Russia.

LGBT activists in Ukraine with whom the Blade has spoken said pro-Russian separatists who control the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic in the eastern part of the country have enacted a similar ban. Lawmakers in Kyrgyzstan and other former Soviet republics have also introduced Russian-style propaganda bills.

Russian advocates maintain anti-LGBT violence and discrimination has increased in their country since Putin signed the propaganda law.

LGBT Russians ‘so disgusted with Trump’s election’

Oleg Tomilin, who is from the Russian city of Voronezh, lives in D.C. with his husband, Maksim Kochura. The two men are seeking asylum in the U.S.

Tomilin told the Blade on Tuesday he has not seen any reaction to Tillerson’s nomination from LGBT Russians or Ukrainians. He nevertheless speculated “everyone is so disgusted with Trump’s election that they take all his nominees for granted.”

“No one expects him to make any reasonable choice,” Tomilin told the Blade.

Tillerson’s ties to Russia questioned

The Human Rights Campaign, the Council for Global Equality and OutRight Action International have raised concerns about Tillerson’s nomination. Rhode Island Congressman David Cicilline and U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) have also questioned Trump’s decision to tap the ExxonMobil CEO amid allegations that Russia influenced the outcome of the election.

RT, a television station the Russian government owns, on Tuesday reported a Russian official acknowledged Putin and “Russian representatives have good business relationships with” Tillerson. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also welcomed his nomination.

“We accept this as a decision by the president-elect of the United States,” Lavrov told reporters during a press conference in the Serbian capital of Belgrade, according to RT. “As President Putin had underlined on numerous occasions we’re ready to work with any partners who are interested in developing comprehensive relations with Russia.”

Tomilin told the Blade “it looks like Trump chooses all those people (for his cabinet) following some instructions from Moscow.”

“There’s not a single LGBT-friendly person in his Cabinet,” he said. “I only hope that there would be more clever people in the Senate and they prevent him from making very stupid steps.”

The Russian-backed Syrian army appeared to regain control of the city of Aleppo on the same day that Trump announced Tillerson’s nomination. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power and State Department spokesperson John Kirby on Tuesday specifically criticized the Kremlin over its role in the ongoing siege that has prompted a humanitarian crisis.

The Syrian civil war began in 2011.

More than 400,000 people have been killed. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees says more than 4.8 million Syrians have fled to Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and other countries.

Maxim Kochura, Oleg Tomlin, Russia, gay news, Washington Blade

Maxim Kochura and Oleg Tomlin in D.C. in 2014. (Washington Blade photo by Vladyslav Rekhovskyy)

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

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