The founder and administrator of Children 404, an online Russian LGBT support group for teenagers, Lena Klimova, has been cleared of all charges after being accused of violating the country’s laws against showing “homosexual propaganda” to youth.
When ultraconservative lawmaker Vitaly Milonov learned about the page, which is on the Russian social networking site Vkontakte, he requested that the government investigate, as he confirmed to RIA Novosti.
Milonov accused the group, founded by a woman named Lena Klimova, of causing teenagers to question their orientations and consequently coming out as—or becoming—gay. He declared, “Without such groups, no kids like that would exist.”
Children 404 is intended as a space for LGBT teens to share their stories via both VKontakte and Facebook, and has featured over a thousand letters since its inception in March 2013. As the administrator of the page, Suturin could have been fined up to 100,000 rubles ($2,800 USD), according to Russian news site arumburg.ru. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, in Russia the average household income is barely over $15,000 per year.
On January 17, Klimova was “informally invited” to the city police station in Nizhny Tagil, according to So So Gay. She complied with a visit, where she was told that seven complaints had been filed against her by Milonov, who was demanding that Children 404 be taken down and Klimova fined. She explained to investigators that the page was intended to provide help and support to youth in need, who initially agreed not to file charges against her.
On January 31, however, she was called back to the station and informed she was going to be charged after all with “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations”; when she asked what had changed, the investigator told her that he was only following orders.
Klimova’s trial was expected to be held sometime in the following weeks; on February 21, however, a district court ruled that as she was the administrator of the page, not the creator of its content, she was cleared of all charges. The court also affirmed that Children 404 did not feature any kind of propaganda.
In response to the verdict, Vitaly Milonov said he planned to appeal the decision.
Klimova’s lawyer Maria Kozlovskaya, who is affiliated with the Russian LGBT Network, told press that the court’s ruling “proved the incapacity and groundlessness of the so-called law about propaganda of homosexuality.”