Moscow Times

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In late 2016, Alexander Stein began posting about LGBT issues on Facebook and Russian social media site Vkontakte. He shared links to news articles on gay marriage laws in European countries and images promoting tolerance. It wasn’t long before there was a backlash. “I started getting messages through SMS, Facebook and other platforms,” Stein told The Moscow Times under a pseudonym. The messages warned him to stop posting his liberal opinions, and that he would pay the price for supporting gay rights. Since the Russian government passed its infamous law banning “gay propaganda among minors” in 2013, any public affiliation with LGBT issues is risky. Rainbow flags don’t often — if ever — make it out the door. Unsurprisingly, some fans were concerned when Russia won the bid for the World Cup: Could the country safely welcome gay fans? The concerns were buoyed by reports of a rise in homophobic chants at football matches and evidence of targeted detentions and killings of gay men in Russia’s Chechen republic.

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