A group of teens in a Russian military club shocked theatergoers when they held a mock execution of a gay person on stage.
The incident took place at the Dobrynin Palace of Culture in Yaroslavl on Sunday during a celebration honoring the 20th anniversary of the local club named Paratroopers, according to a report in 76RU. The cadets, all clad in military uniforms, lifted another cadet who had a fictitious block of cement on his stomach. The block of cement had writing on it which called for the death of gay people, using a homophobic slur for gay people. Another cadet then used a sledgehammer to strike the block.
"I was not at the performance itself, but I saw these photos on social networks. We view these attacks as a call to murder," Taras Sidorin, head of the Yaroslavl branch of the veterans' group Defender, said. "There were small children in the hall. This behavior is simply unacceptable."
Judging from the looks on the faces of the audience, the performance was not well received.
The director of the Dobrynin Palace of Culture claimed the skit was not approved in advance, and that the students deliberately hid their plans because they knew it would not be permitted.
"We are outraged," Igor Derbin, the palace's director, said afterward. "Initially, the event was planned to be pleasant and joyful. Their trick was unexpected for us. It wasn't preplanned or agreed upon because they knew we wouldn't allow it."
In recent years, Russia has moved to restrict the rights of the LGBTQ+ community, most recently with the enactment of widely popular laws that ban marriage equality and transgender adoptions. The campaign in support of the new laws featured one notorious television commercial of a gay couple adopting a young boy from an orphanage. A man is seen meeting his new son, but when the boy asks about his new mother, the man points to his car where a second man emerges wearing makeup and clothing that is meant to appear feminine. Video of the ad was later pulled from YouTube.
In July, a Russian ice cream brand was accused of promoting "gay propaganda" and possibly violating one of the new laws with his rainbow-colored ice cream but an officer with the company defended himself by saying he was just as bigoted as his accusers.
"Our company advocates traditional family relations," Armen Beniaminov, the ice cream maker's vice president, said clarifying that he had voted in support of the new anti-LGBTQ+ laws and that the company believes. "The rainbow is sunlight after the rain, not the LGBT flag."
Interviewed after the performance, the club's teenaged leader appeared little concerned with the controversy.
"What's the problem? They don't like [gay folks]" the cadet group leader, Andrei Palachev was quoted, again using a homophobic slur for gay people. "And neither do I. The family should be traditional: a boy and a girl."
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