A gay couple in Russia with a popular TikTok channel have been arrested and charged with violating the country’s strict anti-LGBTQ+ laws. Gela Gogishvili, a 23-year-old Russian, and his Chinese national boyfriend, Haoyang Xu, 21, were arrested by police in the city of Kazan last week. They were charged under a series of laws that ban the positive depiction of LGBTQIA+ persons in media and the dissemination of “gay propaganda” to minors.
Gogishvili was released, but Xu remains in a Russian jail and faces the threat of immediate deportation. The couple’s TikTok channel has over 370,000 followers and 65,000 subscribers, and they post short videos about their life together as a gay couple.
According to Gogishvili, police started looking for him and Xu in March. The couple were later told they had been charged under the anti-LGBTQIA+ laws but only needed to sign some papers and pay a fine. However, police tried to force the couple to sign papers admitting their guilt, but they refused.
Last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a new law that expanded a 2013 ban against spreading “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” to minors to also include adults. The new law took effect on December 5, making it illegal to promote or “praise” LGBTQIA+ relationships, publicly express non-heterosexual orientations, or suggest that they are “normal.” The new law also banned all advertising, media, and online resource books, films, and theatre productions that affirm the LGBTQIA+ community or individuals.
Gogishvili and Xu are expected to appear in court. If convicted, they will be subject to administrative fines, while Xu could be immediately deported.