YouTube has pulled a homophobic Russian television commercial that uses hateful and outrageous stereotypes to denigrate LGBTQ+ families and marriage equality, according to Meduza.
The commercial was produced in support of an upcoming public vote to approve a series of amendments to the country's constitution, including one defining marriage as only between a man and woman. The series of amendments also give Putin a chance at another two terms as President. The upcoming vote is largely symbolic as the proposals have already been approved by the Russian legislature, but supporters are pulling out all the stops trying to rile up their conservative base and ensure a high turnout.
The advertisement entitled "Why amendments to the Constitution are important" features a gay couple adopting a young boy from an orphanage. When the boy asks the man adopting him 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. The second man greets the child with the gift of a child-sized dress, much to the horror of the social workers and the child. The ad ends with a narrator asking viewers if "this is the Russia you choose?" and challenging them to decide "the future of the country" by voting for the proposed amendments, according to translations.
The ad was the creation of two groups, the Federal News Agency and the "atriot Media Group. Both groups are tied to Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, a street thug and former hot dog salesman who later worked his way up the corporate and criminal ladder to become the owner of St. Petersburg's elite restaurant, New Island. The repurposed schooner soon became Putin's favorite restaurant, and Prigozhin, in part because he served food personally to his most distinguished, became derisively known as "Putin's Chef." Former U.S. President George W. Bush and former French President Jacques Chirac were guests of Putin at New Island. The position had additional perks as Prigozhen became rich off of government contracts to produce food for school children and later for soldiers.
Prigozhen was sanctioned by President Trump for his role in running a troll farm that attempted to interfere with U.S. elections in 2016 and 2018. His indictments by Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation were later dropped for lack of evidence.
For his part, the actor playing the role of the second man has tried to distance himself from the video. Alexander Filimonenko is a veteran of Russian commercials and television. As he tells Meduza, everything about the filming was rushed and that he did not learn of the part he was playing until he got on set.
"At 6 a.m., a friend wrote and invited [me] -- [you] need to play a [gay] guy. I say 'Why not?' I can try, especially now [that there's] a crisis," Filimonenko tells Meduza.
The actor also tells Meduza he meant no offense by the homophobic ads, and says he has a "smooth relationship with gay people." He also wants to make clear he is concerned about the commercial now, as well as the upcoming plebiscite.
"I will go vote against, in order to express my position," Filimonenko tells Meduza. "Although I've never gone to the polls before."
The original commericial can be viewed here. Viewer discretion is advised due to hateful imagery and stereotypes.