They become the first openly gay men to run for seats in the State Duma.

Russia is a country where homosexuality has been decriminalised but where the rights of LGBT people are not protected by law and where they face widespread discrimination and intimidation.

The two men, 29-year-old Aleksei Korolyov and 33-year-old Bulat Barantayev – running as part of the liberal Parnas political coalition – are both outspoken LGBT rights activists.

They are thought to be the only openly gay men ever to run for seats in the State Duma, the lower house of the nation’s Federal Assembly.

Mr Korolyov told Radio Free Europe, that he was standing against discrimination, and to encourage other gay people to do the same.

“I decided to run because the ruling party has adopted an extreme homophobic position,” he said. “The authorities are facilitating a homophobic discourse in society that is inciting hate crimes.

“The LGBT community now is in a desperate situation, and we need allies. It is good that we have been able to form an alliance with Parnas. The LGBT community gets new resources to defend itself and the party should get some new voters.”

Both want to give other LGBT Russians hope and show that they are willing to stand up for themselves.

Barantayev said: “For a long time now, I have used all opportunities to cultivate an audience for accepting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

“By my example, I show that gays in Russia can create their own successful businesses, can meet with people, can have children, and can even run for the State Duma”

The pair readily acknowledge the potential danger of being visible gay men in Russia, including the the risk of vigilante attacks, or harassment from authorities but neither is particularly concerned about enduring violence as a result of their campaigns.

Mr Barantayev has previously called for Putin to be impeached and corruption purged from government and added: “The authorities believe there is no chance I’ll be elected in today’s Russia. So they don’t pay any attention to me.”

Putin passed the anti-gay propaganda law in 2013.

Voting for seats in the State Duma will be held on September 18.

 

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