One LGBTQ person has been detained, and two others brutally attacked, in relation to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
Around 5:20pm local time on June 14, Peter Tatchell, a British LGBTQ activist, was detained by Russian officials after protesting the government’s lack of action on behalf of Chechnya’s queer community. He stood outside the Kremlin on the opening day of the international soccer tournament with a sign denouncing Russian leader Vladimir Putin, and was promptly led away by authorities into a police car, reports The New York Times.
But Tatchell’s detainment wasn’t the first incident of homophobia related to the World Cup: A gay couple in their 20s who’d traveled to Russia to cheer on France were reportedly attacked in St. Petersburg before the World Cup began. One victim, named O. Davrius by a local TV news station, suffered major brain injuries, as well as a fractured jaw.
Two Russian men have been arrested in connection with the violent attack, reports Pink News.
News of these incidents comes after threats of anti-LGBTQ violence from homophobic Russians rocked the international queer community. A statement from the U.K.’s Football Supporters’ Federation even warned LGBTQ soccer fans to “not publicly display [their] sexuality” while abroad in Russia.
Despite the nation’s anti-LGBTQ policies, prominent Russian activists have set up a Pride House for queer attendees in host city St. Petersburg.
The 2018 World Cup tournament begins today, June 14, and comes to a close July 15 at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium.
Update: Tatchell was released by Russian police following his detainment in Moscow. “I spent one hour and 40 minutes in police custody, from the moment I was detained near the Kremlin to the moment of my release from the police station,” he told NBC News. “I presume I was well treated, partly because I am a U.K. citizen and because a senior British Embassy consular official, Colin Wells, contacted the police. I guess the Russians also did not want to be seen as being heavy-handed during the World Cup.”