Nikolai Alekseyev, founder of Gay Pride Russia, believes the law sends the wrong signals to society and in the minds of some legitimizes violence against
lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) communities.
"They have been given carte blanche for all their actions by these laws," he says. "They have received signals from the highest officials in the state --
the Duma, the president -- that basically you can do whatever you want if it concerns gay people because they are not first-class citizens; they are
second-class or even third-class."
Indeed, groups like the one in Kamensk-Uralsky -- which belongs to a Russia-wide network operating under the banner "Occupy Pedophilia" -- have so far
enjoyed almost total impunity for their treatment of homosexuals. None has been prosecuted and the group even appears to have tacit official support.
Edited versions of the gang's videos have even been broadcast on a local television station.
As the name suggests, Occupy Pedophilia began months ago as a movement against pedophiles, luring purported or potential sex offenders online and then
filming and shaming them. But the group has since expanded its focus and is now targeting young homosexuals. Members of the group say they see
homosexuality and pedophilia as morally indistinguishable.
Occupy Pedophilia was founded by Maksim Martsinkevich, an ultranationalist who has served a three-year prison sentence for inciting ethnic hatred.
Martsinkevich, who sports a mohawk and often appears bare-chested in his videos, founded Occupy Pedophilia and encouraged his followers to pour urine over
their victims' heads to "cure" them of homosexuality.
In an interview with Life News, a website widely believed to have ties to the Russian security services, Martsinkevich explained his objectives: "I hope
that these broken lives - and they really do have broken lives - will be an example to the generation growing up that they shouldn't behave like that," he
But the group has run into some unexpected resistance -- both locally and internationally.
Valentin Degteryov is a 43-year-old teacher and former army medic. A resident of Nizhny Tagil, 235 kilometers north of Kamensk-Uralsky, he saw one of the
videos on television and looked into the group's activities. He told RFE/RL that he was appalled by what he discovered.
"These are the most abhorrent criminals in the entire territory of the Russian Federation," he said. "They are the cruelest, most vicious, and
out-of-control bandits I've come across."
Degteryov, who is heterosexual, said he sent 70 appeals to various local, regional, and federal officials -- including the local police, the governor's
office, the State Duma, and the Interior Ministry -- but nobody took any action.
Degteryov has also passed information about Occupy Pedophilia's harassment of gays -- including photos and videos -- to the Washington D.C.-based group
Spectrum Human Rights. The graphic images, which were posted on the popular website Buzzfeed.com and elsewhere, have turned gay rights in Russia into a cause celebre in the United States.