Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) announced on Thursday the arrest of a transgender rights activist on charges of “high treason,” claiming that the individual had been supporting Ukraine. The arrest coincided with lawmakers in Russia backing a bill that seeks to ban gender transitions.
In a statement released by the FSB, it was declared that they had apprehended a Russian citizen from the Oryol region who was allegedly involved in activities constituting high treason by providing financial aid to the armed forces of Ukraine. A video of the arrest, recorded by the FSB and shared by Russian state media, depicts the suspect being forcefully restrained against a wall by armed individuals dressed in fatigues. The detainee can be heard pleading for help before being handcuffed and forcefully placed into a waiting van.
According to the FSB, the arrested individual is a transgender man and was employed by the rights monitoring group OVD-Info. The FSB accuses the detainee of facilitating money transfers to Ukrainian organizations with the purpose of financing the Ukrainian army. In Russia, the crime of high treason carries a potential sentence of life imprisonment.
Coinciding with the arrest, the State Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, moved forward with a bill that aims to ban surgical and legal gender reassignment. The bill successfully passed its second reading, raising concerns about further restrictions on transgender rights. The lower house stated in an official release that the proposed legislation would prohibit medical professionals from performing interventions intended to alter a person’s sex. The bill also includes provisions preventing individuals who have already undergone gender transitions from adopting children or acting as guardians.
The proposed bill is set to undergo a third reading on July 14, where it is expected to advance further. Russia has gained a reputation in recent years for its hostile treatment of individuals who do not conform to the Kremlin’s conservative stance on “family values.” President Vladimir Putin himself has frequently expressed opposition to transgender rights, and the country has implemented a series of socially conservative measures, particularly targeting the LGBTQ community, as part of its crackdown on behaviors deemed deviant and influenced by the West.
The arrest of the transgender rights activist and the advancement of the gender transition ban reflect the ongoing efforts in Russia to curtail expressions of gender identity and suppress dissenting voices, especially in relation to Ukraine. These developments raise concerns about the protection of human rights and the LGBTQ community’s rights within the country.